Ben-Gvir drops IDF immunity law for anti-extortion legislation: report

Otzma Yehudit party now focused on law protecting small business owners from Arab crime syndicates, will drop push for security forces to be granted blanket immunity from criminal prosecution.

By World Israel News Staff

Public Security Minister and Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben-Gvir has agreed to drop a law which would guarantee IDF soldiers and police officers do not face criminal charges for incidents occurring during operational activity, in exchange for the advancement of a law protecting small business owners from extortion by criminal organizations.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara recently ruled the legislation providing immunity to Israel’s security forces could render soldiers vulnerable to prosecution by the International Criminal Court, a decision which was supported by the Likud party.

Ben-Gvir initially agreed to postpone discussions on the law until after the Passover holiday ends, in mid-April. According to an Israel Hayom report, in the meantime another Otzma Yehudit law which protects small business owners from criminal extortion will be advanced.

Mostly in Israel’s southern and Arab communities, numerous small business owners are forced to pay “protection fees” to criminal organizations. If proprietors refuse to pay, their businesses are often vandalized, burned, or even subjected to gunfire.

Otzma Yehudit’s campaign platform was heavily centered on promises to restore law and order in communities where extortion of businesses is rampant, so promoting legislation regarding this topic is of particular interest to Ben-Gvir.

The law proposed by Otzma Yehudit would see an expansion of the criminal definition of extortion. Currently, a person must issue an explicit verbal threat to the business in order to be guilty of extortion, and oftentimes criminal gang members pressure owners via indirect or nonverbal threats.

Should Otzma Yehudit’s law pass, the implied threat of consequences for not paying extortion money will be sufficient for the police and state prosecutors to open a criminal investigation against gang members.