As part of International Human Rights Day, the Knesset`s State Control Committee discussed on Tuesday the issue of administrative detentions. According to a study conducted by the Knesset`s Research and Information Center, at the request of MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List), as of November 1, 2015, four Jews and 398 non-Jews were being held in administrative detention. A large percentage of the detainees are aged 18-30, and 34% of them have been held between six months and a year.

Meretz chairwoman MK Zehava Galon said ”I claim that what the Justice Ministry calls preventive arrest has become a system of punishment, mainly towards Palestinians in the territories. I oppose the administrative detention of Jews or Arabs. This is a revolting method that has no place in a civilized country. As a country that deals with terror, we are in a difficult position. While [the system] has received the approval of the High Court of Justice, I suggest that the state comptroller examine the sweeping, disproportionate use of administrative detention as a method of punishment. The use of administrative detentions should be annulled, and if the security agencies have any information regarding a possible terror-related event, they should arrest the [suspects].”

Deputy Attorney General Raz Nizri told the committee ”We are committed to human rights, but we must find the correct balance between protecting human rights and our security needs. The administrative detention tool is a necessity. In a reality where there is no other choice and the [detainee] endangers national security or the region`s security – there is no choice.” Attorney Nizri noted that the administrative detention procedure is supervised by the judicial system and added: ”We do not make a distinction between Jewish terror and Arab terror, but you don`t have to conduct a study to know that most terror is Arab terror directed against Jews, and not the other way around.”

Nizri told the committee that during the current terror wave, a young woman from Nazareth wrote on her Facebook page that she was about to become a shahid (martyr) and join other shahids who have been killed during this period. ”We knew that during this period many youngsters had posted such threats on Facebook and then carried out terror attacks, so we had no choice but to place her under administrative detention. We looked for a way to arrest her in a different manner, but there was no other choice. These are the cases where we are forced to use this tool,” he said.

According to the chief military prosecutor for Judea and Samaria, Lt. Col. Morris Hirsch, administrative detentions ”are never carried out for the purpose of gathering intelligence.” He argued that ”There is a clear correlation between the number of administrative detainees and the security situation. The past year has seen a drop in the number of detainees, but there has been an increase since the outbreak of the new wave of terror three months ago.”

MK Osama Sa`adi (Joint List) mentioned that attorneys of administrative detainees ”do not possess the tool of cross-examination, which helps the client. [Administrative detention] has turned into a punishing tool, and the time has come to cancel it.”

MK Revital Swid (Zionist Camp) said, ”Particularly during these times we cannot forgo this tool, because we want to protect the state, but on the other hand we must be more lenient with regards to the time of incarceration.” Fellow Zionist Camp MK Eitan Broshi said he objects to the cancellation of administrative detentions, but called for monitoring and moderation. ”We should give the Israeli security forces our full support in the existential fight, and as long as a threat exists, we must offer the proper responses,” he said.

MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu) concluded the meeting by calling on the state comptroller to examine the issue. ”The administrative detentions are proportional,” she said. ”We have to use this tool when there is no other choice. The process is subject to judicial oversight, and the fact that it is possible to appeal against the procedure shows that there is a democracy here that is trying to defend itself. If there is a need to intervene, it is only in matters pertaining to the legal procedure, such as the right to consult an attorney and the right to examine documentation.”