The government approved a bill on Sunday allowing police to conduct searches without probable cause, as tensions continue running high throughout Israel.
The proposal was pushed forward by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and will allow police officers to conduct a search of any person and their belongings within the public space – even if there was no preceding suspicion that they may be armed.
The governent approval shortens the law's ratification, as it will skip the two-week appeal period. The legislation will soon go before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and then go before the Knesset.
In the past, the law only permitted police to conduct a search if there was a clear and reasonable suspicion that the person was armed. The recommendation to alter the current legislation was made five and a half years ago but has been delayed until now.
"Due to recent attacks, an urgent need has emerged to grant police the ability to conduct bodily searches in order to better deal with knife-wielding terrorists," Erdan said.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel harshly criticized the amendment. "The legislation is a cynical exploitation of the security situation. The Public Security Ministry has tried to push forward the legislation for the last five years, and it has nothing to do with the current security situation," said the association's head of the information and privacy department, Avner Pinchuk.
"The police already have vast search authority, and the current legislation seeks to legitimize a police practice which has already been rejected by the courts," he continued. "Past experience says that the law is selectively enforced against minorities including Arabs or dark skinned men."
Pinchuk claims that police in democratic states can detain, arrest, and conduct a search of the person and his/her belongings only when justified – "It's called probable cause. It’s a prerequisite criterion meant to restrict the police forces' actions to a certain set of guidelines. The moment that police act according to their gut instinct, the results are usually not in line with guidelines."