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Knesset Panel Passes Amnesty Bill for Disengagement Protestors

A Knesset committee has unanimously approved a measure to pardon detainees arrested during protests against the 2005 expulsions from Gaza.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 11/16/2009, 12:46 PM / Last Update: 11/16/2009, 12:58 PM

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The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee has unanimously approved a measure to pardon detainees who were arrested during protests against the 2005 Disengagement Law expulsions from Gaza. The bill now goes to the Knesset plenum, where it will face a vote on the floor, and then moves to the Knesset Constitution and Law Committee, headed by MK David Rotem, before a final vote in the legislature.

The bill will not apply to those who have committed serious or violent crimes, nor to those who endangered the lives of others. None of those records will be deleted, nor will proceedings be suspended against anyone who was guilty of committing crimes of deliberate sabotage, sabotage with explosives, or sabotage and injury to others. Nor will the bill apply to anyone who had a criminal record preceding the events of the expulsion of Jews from Gaza.

Approximately 400 civilians will be affected by the measure, most of whom were teenagers accused of misdemeanors. Some of them have already been sentenced and served their time, but the measure will at least expunge all criminality from any police file in their names. For others, the proposal is irrelevant, since they were accused of more serious crimes, or had risked their lives, or those of others.

Last week the committee approved legislation to extend an amnesty bill for opponents of the Disengagement that had been discontinued with the dispersal of the 17th Knesset. The bill, which had been supported in the previous Knesset by then-Opposition MK Binyamin Netanyahu, was approved by a majority of 14 to 4 in a Ministerial Committee. Opponents included Ministers Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Yitzchak Aharonovitch.

Coalition chairman and Likud MK Zev Elkin said that "Today most of the public already understands that the Disengagement was a big mistake, severely taxing the state's strength, security, economic and social abilities. It was a social and political trauma. We as lawmakers have a duty.... to advocate for the evacuees and to heal the rupture in Israeli society."

The chairman of the Jewish Home party, Science and Technology Minister Professor Daniel Hershkowitz supported the bill in the ministerial committee. He said, "The Disengagement left scars on many; criminal records should be removed from those did not endanger anyone."

In 2007, the prosecution informed attorneys representing the opponents of the expulsion that police had decided to close more than 60 cases of minors who had allegedly committed offenses but where there was no violence. Young protesters who stood on the roofs of buildings in Kfar Darom, or who blocked roads during demonstrations, for example, were among those whose cases were closed. However, the prosecution refused to close the files of those aged 18 and over who had committed similar acts.

Knesset Speaker Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin hailed Monday's decision. "These are days that democracy should forgive and forget, and leave the baggage of the past behind," he said. "The Disengagement was a national trauma; it is impossible to compare it with any other social crisis. The amnesty law will help to heal the rift in Israeli society, and to correct the injustice done to the families who were evacuated from their homes. They were the ones who paid the heaviest price for democracy."