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Ephraim Spatial Brigade base
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Attorney Ilan Katz
Photo: Roee Idan
'Measures against rightist rioters a bluff'
Former top military prosecutor says majority of steps adopted by Netanyahu against extremist right-wing activists already exist

Bluffing? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted the recommendations put forth by Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman regarding the treatment of extremist Right-wing activists who riot in the West Bank. However, those familiar with the law enforcement system in the West Bank claim that these measures are nothing more than a big bluff.

 

According to the recommendations, arrest warrants issued against the rioters are to be carried out immediately, violent activists are to be court martialed and IDF troops will be authorized arrest rioters. But most of these measures, experts claim, already exist.

 

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Attorney Ilan Katz, who was the president of the military tribunals in the West Bank and Gaza and served as the former deputy chief military prosecutor told, Ynet that the majority of the steps proposed are not as far-reaching as it seems.

  

"Security laws in the (Palestinian) territories are based on a system of decrees issued by the GOC Central Command. These decrees were derived from a security directive order issued in 1970."

 

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Katz explained that the order, issued 41 years ago, "Determines that certain functionaries can arrest, try and issue judgments. It also determines that the entire legal system in the territories operates by proxy of the GOC, who also determines the nature of the offences.

 

"The Defense Regulations dating back to the days of the British Mandate, which are parallel to Military Law, are still in effect," Katz noted. According to the 1945 act, soldiers can arrest any person who commits a security offence, "regardless of whether he's Jewish, Palestinian or Arab-Israeli – so that there's nothing new here."

 

 
בבסיס חטיבת אפרים. "עשרות תקפו" (צילום: יואב זיתון)

'Only a few dozens rioted.' Ephraim Spatial Brigade base (Photo: Yoav Zitun)

 

Katz stressed that "attacking military personnel or property is undoubtedly considered a security offence," adding that even if a settler vandalizes Palestinian property it's considered a security offense."

 

He further noted that a directive issued in the late 1970s orders to try Jewish civilians who committ offences in the territories at civil courts – not military ones.

 

"This meant the Israeli law, which is more forgiving, would be applied to settlers. According to this law, the defendant has to be brought before a judge within 24 hours, and not 96 hours as is allowed by military law."

 
צמיגים מוכנים להצתה בבסיס חטיבת אפרים (צילום: יואב זיתון)

Tires ready to be set on fire, near Ephraim Brigade base (Photo: Yoav Zitun)

 

In addition, Katz explained, the military courts in the West Bank are stricter because they cannot sentence defendants to community service or send them to a probation officer, as is often done in regular courts.

 

"If this matter were to be changed," he concluded, "It would indeed constitute a serious measure."

 

Katz said administrative detention is nothing new either: "As early as the 1980s and 1990s administrative detention warrants were issued by the GOC against settlers who committed security offenses, for a period of up to six months. In these cases, the detainee can appeal to the appeals committee, and request to see the details of the investigation being conducted against him. In most cases, the request is denied, or restricted," he said.

 

Even restricted movement and expulsion orders, Attorney Katz claimed, were not new measures and have been issued against residents of the West Bank in the past.

 

"If this whole think is not just a political spin, then the only real innovation is that settlers would be tried in military courts like the one in Ofer Military Base. This will have a psychological effect because a settler will suddenly find himself in the same court room where terrorists are being tried and under a legal system meant to try Arabs. This will definitely improve enforcements," he added.

 

'Price tag' by state

Meanwhile, radical right-wing elements slammed the new security measures adopted by the prime minister. "It's no secret that the security establishment has been looking for quite some time for an excuse to exacerbate measures against the settlers," said an activist familiar to the police, who has been expelled from the area in the past.

 

"This will not break our spirits. We will not change our ways and will stay here even if certain people don’t like it," he said.

 

Referring to the assault against IDF soldiers at the Ephraim Spatial Brigade base, the activist said: "The media is carrying out an incitement campaign against an entire public. Political and media sources that are driven by immense hatred toward the settlement project took this regrettable event and spin it around in order to delegitimize us and prepare the public for the next wave of evictions."

 

The activist referred to the eviction of settlements and the prime minister's steps as "terrorist acts" committed against the Jewish residents of the West Bank.

 

"What happened in the Ephraim Spatial Brigade shouldn’t have happened. It is a grave incident. My neighbors serve in combat units, but we must remember that hundreds demonstrated outside the base, while only a few dozen participated in the riots.

 

"These people are not from around here. They responded in the worst manner because they were pushed to the corner. Our relationship with the military is important to us, and this is not our way. It has inflicted massive damage on us by allowing enemies from within to execute these 'terrorist acts,'" he said, concluding that "one can say that the country is committing a 'price tag' against us."

 

Yair Altman contributed to this report

 

 

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