The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed a law on Tuesday that allows police to search homes for illegal weapons without the need for a search warrant.
The law is intended to fight the increase in violent crimes in Israel, especially in Arab communities, which have seen a surge in violence related to organized crime in recent years.
The legislation, similar to a bill passed under Israel's Bennett-Lapid coalition last year, was submitted by Jewish Power party Knesset Member Yitzhak Kroizer, and passed with support from both coalition and opposition members, including the Yisrael Beytenu opposition party.
The temporary law allows police to conduct warrantless searches of a residence or establishment if there is reasonable suspicion of finding a weapon or of a serious crime. However, the searches require the approval of a superintendent-level officer or higher.
The law will only be in effect for a period of 12 months, during which law enforcement agencies will have to report to the Knesset National Security Committee and the Attorney General’s Office three times regarding their use of the warrantless searches.
The punishment for those caught with illegal weapons could result in a maximum prison sentence of five years and a minimum of two-and-a-half years.
Arab Knesset Members Ahmad Tibi, Ayman Odeh and Ofer Cassif voted against the bill, which drew criticism from National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
“Remember this the next time they blame the police or the State of Israel for the problem of illegal weapons in the Arab sector,” Ben Gvir wrote on social media. “The leaders of the Arab public in the Knesset do not want to fight crime in the Arab sector.”
Ben Gvir called the bill “a real revolution in the war for accountability and personal security.”
“It will allow us to fight the seriousness of dozens of illegal weapons in the Arab sector,” he said.
According to a 2020 Knesset report, there are around 400,000 illegal weapons in Israel, many of which can be found in Arab communities.
“There is no intention to harm the rights of the individual, but these rights also belong to the victims, and not only those who enter their homes,” said National Security Committee chairperson Zvika Fogel, following the bill’s approval last week.
Fogel indicated that the bill could be modified in the future.
“We will examine the law at the end of a year to see what needs to be added and what needs to be subtracted,” Fogel said.
Israel does not have the same gun rights laws as the United States, and the purchase of firearms is highly regulated.
While the issue of illegal weapons in Israel is a growing concern, there has also been an increase in the number of illegal weapons within Palestinian areas, especially among terror groups. A Jerusalem Post analysis in December found that many of these stolen weapons belonged to the Israeli military. It is not clear how the terror groups acquired those weapons.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.