Israel’s Attorney General Blocks Military Deployment to Enforce Coronavirus Regulations

Despite police emphasizing the importance of boosting numbers on the streets, Mendelblit insists on formal cabinet approval

Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Jerusalem, February 2020.
Ohad Zwigenberg

Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit and the Justice Ministry prevented the deployment of soldiers to enforce coronavirus-related emergency regulations on Sunday, asking it be passed as a cabinet resolution first.

The deployment of 650 Israel Defense Forces soldiers to help with policing was approved last week by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, together with Chief of General Staff Aviv Kochavi and the Defense Ministry. It was meant to start Sunday.

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Mendelblit okayed the move on Friday “subject to anchoring the guidelines for action in a cabinet decision, given the exceptional use of IDF soldiers,” a statement said. The Public Security Ministry only submitted a draft resolution on Saturday, which got Mendelblit’s approval on Sunday afternoon. It is to be brought Sunday night for discussion and approval by the cabinet, sources in the Justice Ministry said.

According to several sources in law enforcement, the assignment of soldiers to help with policing duties is crucial, and the delay will impact police work. Some of the soldiers had come Sunday to their assigned police stations, but they were sent home when Mendelblit told the Public Security Ministry and other ministries that it would have to wait. The Justice Ministry wants the police and the IDF to give the cabinet a weekly update on their activities, and submitted a list of other restrictions on the soldiers’ activity. Only police, not soldiers, will be allowed to fine residents, for example.

Under the plan, each police officer in the field will be accompanied by a soldier as they enforce the emergency regulations. Soldiers will not be deployed in communities where their presence might spark disturbances, like ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods or Arab communities. The goal is to free up policemen to do their regular policing duties, even though there has been a mild drop in crime during the past month.

To provide the police with additional help, Gilad Erdan also ordered inspectors from the Population Authority and the Nature and Parks Authority back to their jobs.

Ohad Zwigenberg