High Court Bars Minister From Interfering in Police Operations

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrives at a Cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The High Court ruled on Sunday that National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir may not give “operational orders” to police commanders, and may only issue a general outline on policy — particularly in regard to widespread demonstrations against the government’s overhaul of the judicial system.

The decision, written by Justice Yitzchak Amit, asserted that “the minister may outline policies and general principles for the Israel Police, including in relation to demonstrations and the blocking and evacuation of traffic routes.”

However, it also stressed that “the minister may not give operational instructions regarding the ways to implement his policy, the manner of using force in such an event or another, the ways of using force, the means of dispersing demonstrations, the conditions concerning the time, place and manner of organizing the event.”

As Minister of National Security, Ben Gvir is responsible for public security, law enforcement and corrections, putting the police and prison service among the institutions under his authority.

Last week, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara instructed Ben Gvir to refrain from giving police operational orders amid a wave of demonstrations against judicial reforms.

Sunday’s ruling was issued in response to petitions filed by the Civil Rights Association and the Movement for Quality Government.

“The court clearly clarified to Minister Ben Gvir the limits of his position: the minister has no authority to interfere in the conduct of the police in demonstrations. We will continue to monitor Ben Gvir and the way he conducts and we will not hesitate to return to the courthouse if it seems that he continues to act as High Commissioner in order to eliminate the demonstrations,” the Association said in a statement following the ruling.

“The events of the last few days prove that the minister should be prevented from setting policy on a sensitive issue such as demonstrations,” the statement added.

Earlier on Sunday, Ben Gvir instructed the police to furnish video documentation of every instance in which water cannons are used during protests. Commanders reportedly objected for technical reasons.

Opponents of the judicial overhaul vowed to escalate their protests after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu dismissed a compromise framework proposed by President Yitzchak Herzog last Wednesday. Opposition party leaders described Herzog’s plan as viable, though not ideal.

Supporters of the judicial reform say they want to end years of judicial overreach while opponents describe the proposals as anti-democratic.

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