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Monday, March 13, 2006

Amona Committee: Chairman Shteinitz vs. Minister Ezra

The Knesset Committee inquiring into the violence perpetrated by police officers and soldiers at 'Amona' held its fourth session today. You won't read much about it in the MSM, but Arutz Sheva is covering it. Today's session featured 'harsh words' between Committee Chairman Yuval Steinitz and 'Internal Security' Minister Gideon Ezra:

Committee Chairman Yuval Shteinitz (Likud, pictured) opened the meeting with harsh words for Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra, and some for Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz. He said that the committee had decided to cancel its invitation to Minister Ezra, who said he would appear in place of his underlings. "We have decided to put an end to this attempt to mock the Knesset, ourselves and he himself, and have informed Minister Ezra that we do not require his services today," Shteinitz said.

Shteinitz said, "We have thus far heard no fewer than six different reasons why the police and army officers cannot testify." He then proceeded to name five of them:

"First we heard that they were worried about the policemen's general safety; then we heard from Minister Ezra here in this room that he was worried that they would be attacked after their testimony; then Mofaz said that they have nothing to say that he [and Ezra] couldn't say; then we heard that this was a response to the burning of a policeman's car in Hadera, which is a very grave act and must be investigated and dealt with properly; and now we hear that Ezra, who told me this on the phone, doesn't want to be contradicted by the policemen who we are calling to testify."

Two law professors testified that the police are not allowed to use force as a deterrent measure for future events, and that "deterrence" is a measure reserved only for the courts. In addition, citizens are not permitted to be in a given area only after it is made clear to them via public address system or other means that the area is a closed military zone or that the assembly is dangerous and forbidden. However, if citizens who are otherwise law-abiding do not leave the area, the police are permitted only to use reasonable force to evacuate them, and not anything beyond that. "Police and security forces are allowed to use force only if there is an immediate and clear danger," said Prof. Emanuel Gross.

Prof. Gross said that technically, the ministers may have the authority to appear in place of their underlings, but "the question is not only authority, but how the authority is utilized, and what was the original purpose of these authorities." He implied strongly that the ministers should not use their authority in this manner, and that it is illegal for a minister to use his authorities in a way that is designed to obstruct the committee's work.

"Is it acceptable for a minister not to appear because of the fear of being contradicted, as he himself told me?" Shteinitz asked in a serious tone. Prof. Gross replied at length that this is not acceptable.

Shteinitz then asked, "In such a case, when a minister's behavior is on the border of illegality, who is authorized to call him to order and demand that he act in accordance with the law?" Prof. Gross said that the Attorney General is the proper address, "and perhaps you should summon him to the committee so that he can investigate the situation for himself."

Prof. Ariel Ben-Dor was more circumspect, saying that Minister Ezra's use of his authorities in this manner was not illegal, but rather "inappropriate." A legal advisor who was present said she preferred Ben-Dor's description, but Chairman Shteinitz emphasized Gross' opinion.

Read the whole thing.


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