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Knesset Steps Toward Amnesty For Gaza Expulsion Protesters

The Knesset voted to proceed with legislating amnesty to most of the people charged with offenses in the protests against the Gaza expulsion.
By Malkah Fleisher
First Publish: 12/7/2009, 11:19 PM / Last Update: 12/7/2009, 11:46 PM

"The Knesset took a historic step this evening," enthused coalition chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), following the passage of a "rule of continuity" regarding a bill granting amnesty to activists and protestors against the Gaza 'Disengagement.' The vote to apply the rule of continuity means that the bill, which already passed some hurdles on the way to becoming a law in the previous Knesset, will not have to start the process from scratch in the current Knesset.

In 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon carried out a unilateral expulsion of Jews from all Gaza/Gush Katif Jewish communities, destroyed their houses and business centers, and withdrew Israeli presence from the area. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis strongly opposed the decision, with many thousands actively taking part in protest and opposition activities. During the events, hundreds of citizens were arrested, jailed, or fined as a result of their participation.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remained on the Knesset floor to vote in favor of the rule of continuity. The law will now remain in the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice committee, which is headed by MK David Rotem (Israel Our Home), and be prepared for the final readings.

The pardon will not apply to serious violent crimes, or to acts endangering human life.

No records will be deleted and no proceedings suspended against people accused of committing crimes involving assault or injury in aggravated circumstances. Additionally, the bill will not apply to anyone who has a criminal record from prior to the events of the Disengagement.

Elkin, who was a major proponent of the law's passage, said the Knesset's vote to pass the rule of continuity regarding this bill is "a real attempt to heal the rifts in Israeli society. The Disengagement was a very severe social trauma which, as any intelligent person understands today, caused terrible damage both security-wise and socially," Elkin said. "We will do everything that depends on us in order to complete the legislative process."