Israel to allow police to search Palestinian homes without warrant

Middle East Monitor  /  March 29, 2023

Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, passed temporary legislation last night that allows police officers to conduct house searches for illegal weapons without a warrant, particularly in Palestinian communities, Haaretz has reported. The objective is to “reduce the number of illegal weapons used by criminal organizations by providing tools to the Israeli police and other law enforcement authorities.”

According to Haaretz, the temporary law will be in effect for one year. It was submitted by MKs from both coalition and opposition parties, including all six members from the opposition Yisrael Beiteinu.

The law allows the occupation police to enter and search buildings without a court order, although the permission of an officer of the rank of superintendent or higher must be obtained. This will be documented according to standard police procedures.

It also stipulates that imprisonment of up to 10 years as well as fines for those caught with illegal arms or essential parts of a weapon. Anyone found guilty of “manufacturing, importing or exporting illegal weapons” will also have such weapons confiscated.

The move follows a similar law proposed in 2021 by former Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar which only passed the first Knesset vote.

Human rights advocates have criticized the new law, warning that it could “harm Arab [Palestinian] society.” Similarly, the Joint List – a political alliance of Palestinian-majority political parties in Israel – described the law as “dangerous,” adding that it “gives the Israeli police and army full powers to storm into homes without a court warrant.”

Israeli Palestinian citizens make up 20 per cent of the population in the country. They believe that the authorities are purposely ignoring rising crime rates within their community. Indeed, Palestinian community leaders in Israel accuse the police of being responsible for the spread of crime within the community, accusing them of “turning a blind eye to the residents’ complaints.”