In a strange move, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense declared a “state of emergency” at the cabinet’s request yesterday.  The reason was even stranger:  In order to ensure government control over ice cream production and tickets to theatrical performances.

In reality, Israel has officially been in a state of emergency for the last 63 years, since it declared independence in 1948.  Since then, the government has used the state of emergency as a way to quickly pass laws.  If the government were to end the status, most of the laws in the country would be annulled.  Keeping this in mind, the committee decided to extend it for yet another year, even though the Association for Civil Rights (ACRI) requested that it be dropped sooner, within six months.

At the session held on Monday, a Shin Bet officer asked for the extension as aids them in their ability to detain and arrest individuals and watch those leaving and entering the country.  Three individuals were present at the meeting, although three full Knesset committees were supposed to be present.  Those individuals, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Shaul Mofaz, Avraham Michaeli and Moshe Matalon, all supported the extension.

Some of the laws passed do serve the security establishment, such as the law which enables land seizure in the event of an emergency.

The ACRI has been trying to end the state of emergency for well over 10 years.  They filed a petition to the High Court to end the state of emergency in 1999.  The court criticized the state of being and as a result the state has reduce the number of laws that rely on a state of emergency to be in effect.  In the meeting yesterday, ACRI expressed their displeasure and told the committee that the state of emergency was unjustified.

One of the MKs present, Nitzan Horowitz, said after the meeting that “It’s time to get rid of the emergency regulations, which date back to the British Mandate and should have been revoked long ago. They are intended to give the cabinet undemocratic powers and enable it to circumvent laws.”