Attorney-General shoots down immunity proposal for Israeli soldiers

In response, Knesset committee postpones discussion on the subject; Ben-Gvir says, “She thinks she’s the prime minister.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In a legal opinion publicized Sunday, Attorney-General Gali Baharav Miara opposed a bill giving immunity from prosecution to security personnel who act against terrorists, raising the ire of the Otzma Yehudit party that is pushing for it.

The proposed law was problematic in several ways, Baharav Miara wrote, not least of which that it could backfire on those it is trying to protect.

“The bill exposes those working on behalf of the state to the possibility that legal proceedings – criminal and civil – will be brought forward, both in international courts such as the ICC, and in foreign countries,” she noted. “In this sense, and contrary to its purpose, the proposal may actually harm the members of the security forces by exposing them to criminal or civil proceedings abroad.”

The logic behind this is that since Israeli courts, which are held in high standing abroad, currently put on trial soldiers or others who allegedly commit crimes while carrying out their anti-terror duties, judicial bodies abroad rely on their judgments. A blanket immunity would spur these outside bodies to take up the victims’ cause instead.

Baharav Miara upped the ante even further, stating without going into any detail that such immunity could even lead to “greater danger to the lives and bodies” of the soldiers and police who take part in the “operational activities.”

The law is also unnecessary, she wrote, because “Over the years, various mechanisms have been developed in the State of Israel that are designed to balance the challenges that characterize operational activity and the importance of the duty to investigate cases of illegal or improper use of force by the security forces.”

“The immunity as proposed fundamentally changes the point of balance, and thereby results in a violation of human rights and other vital interests,” she added.

While a government committee would also be anchored in the law, which could determine if immunity should be removed in cases where action was taken with “bad faith or with malice,” the attorney-general argued that the committee members would not have the requisite “professional expertise” to come to a proper decision because they would consist of “non-judicial elements.”

In response to Bahav Miara’s opinion, which came just hours before the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice committee was set to begin its deliberations on the subject, the coalition decided to postpone the discussion until at least the end of the month.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who had insisted on the passage of this law as part of his Otzma Yehudit party’s coalition agreement with the Likud, criticized the Attorney-General over her ruling.

The Attorney-General, he said, “essentially wants to be the ultimate prime minister” in opposing “everything we propose,” he told Ynet. “With all due respect, she is not the only jurist in Israel and some think otherwise, who are no less professional than she is.”

The right-wing minister has made this accusation before several times, such as when the judicial reform plans first started being aired in December. Baharav Miara had made a speech in which she said, “In a democratic state, it is inappropriate to change the relationship between the political echelon and the judicial system through lightning legislation.”

Ben-Gvir reacted by saying, “The attorney-general is making the error of thinking that she is the real prime minister of Israel. Every law that she doesn’t agree with becomes a danger to democracy.”

The immunity law is primarily meant to protect those soldiers, police officers, or even civilians doing their national duty who shoot terrorists during an attack or military operation. It specifically does not grant immunity when there is suspicion of theft, looting, destruction of equipment, taking bribes, abusing, humiliating or perpetrating violence against uninvolved bystanders.


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