Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Knesset Passes Indictment-Erasure Proposal
by Hillel Fendel

( The government has agreed to legislation proposed by several Knesset Members to pardon indicted anti-Disengagement protestors. It may include policemen as well.

The Knesset approved a preliminary reading of the proposed bill early Wednesday evening by the comfortable margin of 37-10. The bill now passes to the Knesset Law Committee for final formulation, from where it will return to the Knesset for additional votes. The bill has been exempted from the necessary 45-day waiting period, but is not expected to be passed into law before the end of next week, when the current Knesset session ends.

The bill affects only demonstrators, and not those whose anti-expulsion actions endangered life.

The bill was co-sponsored by Ruby Rivlin (Likud), Amira Dotan (Kadima), Rabbi Yitzchak Levy (National Union), and others. In explaining the bill, MK Levy acknowledged MK Eli Gabbai of the NRP, "who was actually the first to propose legislation of this type." Rivlin said that there are times when strict justice must be meted out, "and times like now when what is needed is to go beyond the letter of the law."

Minister Ruhama Avraham explained that the government supports the legislation for various reasons: Many of the indicted teenagers are nearing the age of induction into the army, but their way to combat units is blocked by the indictments; a need to heal some of the wounds caused by the Disengagement; a general tendency to be lenient with youngsters whose general lifestyles do not jibe with the crimes on which they were indicted; and more. She also mentioned that general pardons regarding crimes against the State had been given twice before - upon the establishment of the State, and after the Six Day War.

MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) objected to the bill, saying that from a judicial standpoint, "it is unacceptable to legitimize violence against soldiers merely because it was done for ideological reasons." MK Benny Elon called out, "You have no judicial problem with pardoning convicted terrorists and setting them free - but to pardon a young boy who protested against the expuslion - that's a problem?!" Beilin said the two cases should not be compared.

MK Rivlin clarified on Wednesday that, contrary to rumors, his proposal does not include clemency for policemen accused of undue violence against Disengagement-protestors. He told the Knesset, however, that he would support a proposal to include indicted policemen as well. "The bill is not designed to advance one side over the other," he explained, "but rather to advance conciliation between the sides."

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