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UN requests information on Israeli legislation expanding political control over Israel Police force

Religious Zionist party head MK Bezalel Smotrich with head of Jewish Power party MK Itamar Ben Gvir at a vote in the Knesset assembly hall in Jerusalem, Dec. 28, 2022. (Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The United Nations has asked Israel for information on the “Ben Gvir Law,” a new piece of legislation that aims to increase political control over the country’s police force. 

The law is named after Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s new and controversial minister of national security. Israeli Channel 13 reported on Saturday that the Justice Ministry is responding to the UN request. 

Placed in context, the request constitutes a component in the routine review of Israel’s implementation of the 2005 United Nations Convention against Corruption. The overall aim of the convention is to battle corruption in a country’s law enforcement and public offices. 

Prior to the Israeli elections in November, Ben Gvir vowed to fight the growing crime wave spreading across Israeli society. The Israel Police has long faced criticism for being ineffective in dealing with the growing levels of crime in the country. 

As a condition for joining the Netanyahu government, Ben Gvir pitched for a position of power and influence over general police policy and crime investigations. The new legislation places the minister “in charge of” the country’s police force, on behalf of Israel’s democratically elected government. 

While there is wide agreement in Israel that the Israel Police is weak and ineffective, critics fear that the Ben Gvir Law could politicize the country’s police force, which should ideally be kept out of politics. 

The Israeli attorney general’s office articulated that there was a “significant fear of political involvement in the activities of the police in the most sensitive areas related to basic human rights.” These include fundamental democratic rights, such as freedom to protest and freedom of expression, as well as the rights of individuals charged with crimes. 

Responding to the criticism, Ben Gvir’s office told Channel 12 that the attorney general’s office “does not understand that there is an elected government in Israel and that the minister should not be a figurehead.”

Ben Gvir’s office further stated that it is the norm among advanced democracies that the police commissioner receives instructions from the democratically elected political leadership. 

“There is no democratic country in the world where the police commissioner does not receive instructions from the political echelon or from elected officials, only in Israel – a banana republic,” said Ben Gvir’s office, in a strong criticism of the current state of Israel’s police force. 

Following the recent Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks against Jewish Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, Ben Gvir vowed to make it easier for Israeli civilians to acquire legal gun licenses for self-defense. 

“I have ordered the manpower in the firearms department to be doubled. Weapons for more civilians is a quick and lethal response against terrorism,” Ben Gvir said on social media

Sharon Gat, CEO of Caliber 3, an Israeli counter-terror and security academy, is backing the hardline minister’s position on guns. 

“There is no doubt that when someone carries a weapon, they feel safer. You can also see in all the recent incidents, wherever there was a firearm in the hands of a civilian, a greater disaster was prevented,” Gat said

However, critics fear that loosening Israel’s currently strict gun license regulations would lead to more armed violence. 

Rela Mazali, the co-founder and project coordinator of Gun Free Kitchen Tables, an NGO that advocates stricter gun control, believes more guns means less security. 

“Arms proliferation only increases violence. We have seen this in recent years in Israel,” Mazali said. “But also, in this move, the state is privatizing the maintenance of public safety.”

Last Friday, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk blasted the Israeli gun-licensing plan as an “escalation.” 

“Plans by the government of Israel to expedite and expand the licensing of firearms, with the stated intention of ‘adding thousands of [Israeli] civilians carrying firearms’ – coupled with hateful rhetoric – can only lead to further violence and bloodshed,” he said

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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