The Israeli Law Professors’ Forum for Democracy, an ad-hoc and voluntary group of experts on Israeli law, and specifically Israeli public law, expresses its grave concern over the apparent intention to abolish the independence of the judiciary, to subordinate it to the government and to the partisan political considerations of the executive branch, to undermine the independent status of the attorney generals and legal advisors, and to violate human rights.
In this position paper, we examine the attack on the Department of Internal Police Investigations. We see grave danger in the proposed bill to amend the Police Ordinance (“Department of Internal Police Investigations (DIPI) Law”). This proposal is another tier in the abolition of the rule of law and in politicization of the legal system as a whole, and raises concern that this is only the first instance of political intervention in criminal law enforcement in Israel.
As detailed herein, each component of the bill separately does not achieve the bill’s stated purpose as set out in the explanatory notes, but rather will lead to the opposite result. Namely, rather than allowing unbiased investigations and prosecutions, the bill positively ensures bias in DIPI’s operations and undue influence on the prosecution authorities. Taken together, the components of the bill present a clear and unambiguous picture: passing this bill will cause significant erosion in the independence of the prosecution, enable politicians to intervene in the enforcement of criminal law, politicize the management and operation of the DIPI, and impair the fight against corruption. Furthermore, the bill does not advance any of the objectives worthy of correction concerning the DIPI’s operation, such as, first and foremost, ensuring equality before the law.
The bill cannot be viewed separately from the general legislative landscape, and the legislation dealing with law enforcement in particular. The previous amendment to the Police Ordinance involved the "Ben-Gvir Law", and the two amendments together constitute apparent steps toward the politicization of the entire law enforcement system. The essence of the said amendment (the Ben-Gvir Law) involves subordinating the police to the Minister of National Security, and provides extraordinary, explicit and detailed provisions concerning the minister’s authority to set police policy, without ensuring the police any countering independent professional discretion. This is compounded by the fundamental changes planned in the process of the appointment of judges and legal advisors, which will also lead to similar results. Thus, examining all the legislation together, clarifies the overarching goal: the politicization of the criminal law enforcement system, which jeopardizes the system’s chief values, most notably equality before the law.
A bill to amend the Police Ordinance (Department of Internal Investigations) 2022 passed a preliminary reading on February 22, 2023.
 This is not an exhaustive review, but rather an initial response to the bill only. Of note, however, is the global trend of transferring the handling of complaints against the police to independent entities, rather than to political actors. See Guy Lurie, “An Accountability Deficit in the System for Dealing with Complaints against the Police in Israel,” 4 Law, Society and Culture 451 (2021) [Hebrew]; see also Itay Fidelman, “Actors for the Investigation of Police Officers – A Comparative Review”, Knesset Research and Information Center Report (2015) [Hebrew], which relates, for example, to the situation in New Zealand, where the authority’s independence is entrenched in legislation to ensure accountability to Parliament (and not to a government body), and whose law prohibits political involvement in the authority’s activities.
Amendment to the Police Ordinance (No. 37), 2022.