Israel Seeks Legislation to Allow Holding Citizens in Occupied W.B.

The Justice Ministry has submitted legislation that would allow the Israel Security Agency (ISA – Shin Bet or Shabak) to hold arrested citizens of the state in its prison facilities in the occupied West Bank, in a move lawmakers say would apply to suspects under investigation. The bill passed the first of three required Knesset votes on Monday, June 7, in a 15-8 vote and will now be referred to committee. The ministry is expected to continue its attempt to advance the bill under the new government.

Ofer Prison in the occupied Palestinian territories

Ofer Prison in the occupied Palestinian territories (Photo: Activestills)

Current Israeli and international law does not allow citizens of the state to be detained in the occupied West Bank. In practice, however, Palestinian residents of Jerusalem – who are permanent residents but not citizens of Israel – are often detained in West Bank facilities. The legislation would require the head of Israel’s military to declare the interrogation facility, which will be completed by the end of the year, a “lockup facility.”

Critics of the legislation say that, if approved, it will likely target Arab-Palestinians citizens of Israel who routinely face legal discrimination. Earlier this year, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel described the proposed legislation as “unconstitutional.”

Hadash Lawmaker Ofer Cassif (Joint List) said during the Knesset debate that the bill amounted to a violation of international law. “The bill’s explicit goal is to transfer citizens to a lockup and prison facility in occupied territory; territory that was seized illegally and where people live under a clear apartheid regime.” Cassif continued, “If the government gets its wish with this dangerous bill, it will be taking yet another step towards importing apartheid from the occupied territories [and applying it] to Arab citizens of Israel.”

On May 24, following the end of Israel’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, Israel’s police launched a sweeping operation, dubbed Operation Law and Order, deploying thousands of officers to carry out mass arrests of persons suspected of rioting just prior to and during the military operation against Gaza. By May 25, over 1,550 persons had been arrested. On June 3, the police announced the completion of arrests which totaled 2,142, 91% of whom were Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel.