State Warns Against Law Clearing Gaza Pullout Offenders

The State Attorney yesterday warned that the law offering amnesty to or the cancellation of legal proceedings against those accused of criminal violations during the disengagement from Gaza may have dangerous side effects.

Arguing before the Supreme Court, the State Attorney said this law may "serve as a dangerous precedent in future political moves - where others will ... act against the law and expect that their violations will be forgiven. This side effect is evident, it should not be ignored and it is disturbing."

The State Attorney's position was part of a response to a petition filed against the "law for ending legal proceedings and erasing the record in matters pertaining to the disengagement plan." The law in question enables anyone who committed fairly minor violations during the disengagement and was not sentenced to a prison term, to be pardoned, or to have proceedings against them canceled and any community service sentence be dropped.

Attorneys Yiftah Cohen and Omer Shatz filed the petition on behalf of leftist demonstrators arrested at Sheikh Jarrah, asking that the law be canceled as it discriminated against the left and favored the right. They also accused the right of using its advantage in the Knesset to harm the weaker minority.

Public figures including the author Sami Michael, Yossi Sarid, Ronit Matalon, Musi Raz, Uri Avnery, Yishai Menuchin and others joined the petition.

In its response, the state is seeking to reject the petition. Between the lines, however, it is clear that the State Attorney's office is not at ease with the law in question.

"It is an unusual law, but the background of the legislation was also unusual," wrote attorney Dina Zilber, who heads the department on petitions to the Supreme Court at the State Attorney's office. "Moreover the law diverges from regular law enforcement and also talks about an arrangement that is complex - to put it mildly - because at the end of the day, there is no justification in canceling [the law]."

In her response, Zilber notes that the representatives of the Justice Ministry had opposed the legislation, "for undermining the principle of equality and other principles of the rule of law, particularly in a broad reading of court and law enforcement decisions through partisan and sectarian legislation in the Knesset."

"The concern was also raised that legislation of this sort may also result in similar bills that will bolster other interested parties, for example violators opposed to the separation fence, or criminals arguing economic hardship, or other ideological reasons," Zilber notes.

"Of course such legislation can have precedent-setting implications," she adds.

According to Zilber, administrative alternatives were proposed to assist those who broke the law during the disengagement, "however they did not satisfy Knesset members who supported the law, and so they opted to continue supporting the legislation."

In response to the left's argument concerning discrimination, the state wrote the following: "It is not possible to disregard claims that equality was violated, and the concerns raised in the petition. However, the bottom line is that there is no room for judicial interference and the cancellation of the law, mostly because it is not possible to dispel the claim that it was passed for a worthy purpose - which was to mending the division in the nation.

"A society can decide that there is a time to carry out actions, like the disengagement, in a determined and quick fashion," the state continued, "and that there is a time to bind the fractures and take steps of conciliation to dull substantially the polarization within the nation. There is a time for being determined and a time for being sensitive, and now is the time for being sensitive."