The draft proposal was Sunday distributed among government ministries by Deputy Religious Services Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, who initiated the bill together with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.
According to Ben-Dahan and Lau, inspectors from the Rabbinate's Kashrut Fraud Division are currently encountering difficulties operating due to the absence of any clear authority backed by legislation, and are forced to settle for imposing administrative fines on businesses.
Business owners: We'll be turned into criminals
According to the porposal, the religious services minister will be able to appoint inspectors from his ministry, and grant them the following powers: Requiring every person to present an identity card and to disclose any relevant information or documentation; taking samples of products and substances for examination; entering a business or factory and even a vehicle belonging to the business; and confiscating invalid kashrut certificates.
In the case of a suspected offense, the inspectors will be entitled to question any person suspected of involvement in the offense or one who may have information about it, seize any relevant object, and ask the courts for a search warrant. The inspectors will be allowed to act under these powers so long as he is wearing a special uniform, as well as a badge stating his name and position.
The proposed law, which has been nicknamed "the kashrut police" by officials in the Ministry for Religious Services, has already drawn criticism from business owners who declare stores or restaurants as "kosher without a certificate" due to their objection to the terms demanded by the Rabbinate for issuing a kashrut certificate.
These business owners are concerned that the increased enforcement powers given to the supervisors will turn them into criminals.
'Inspectors will be given effective tools'
Ben-Dahan says he is determined to complete the legislation process. "This is an essential and necessary proposal, which aims to put the enforcement in order and restore faith in the kashrut industry, which has been suffering from a bad image in recent years."
"Until now, inspectors have been forced to deal with a lack of authority, and as a result have been seen as weak in the eyes of kashrut criminals, who usually escaped unpunished, and in the eyes of the public for not having the tools to deal with their appeals.
"The bill aims to provide inspectors with tools for fighting kashrut fraud and kashrut criminals effectively."
Chief Rabbi Lau congratulated Ben-Dahan on the initiative, saying: "I believe that every person in Israel – both anyone who cares about kashrut and anyone who doesn’t find it as important – understands the need for integrity for citizens seeking kashrut and falling victim to deception."