Following a series of meetings in the Knesset’s Internal Affairs Committee, police have agreed to reconsider hundreds of weapons confiscations involving Israelis living in Judea and Samaria. Many of those whose guns were taken have reported that they were returned.
While most Israelis are not allowed to own a personal gun, an exception has traditionally been made for Jews living in Judea and Samaria due to the frequent terrorist attacks in the region. However, in 2007 the IDF began an operation to confiscate weapons and “put gun permits in order.”
Jews living in the region, and their supporters in Knesset, accused Defense Minister Ehud Barak of “making the settlers fair game” by leaving them unarmed.
Tension over gun permits reached a boiling point with the murder of four Jews near Beit Chaggai in 2010. One of the victims, Yitzchak Imas, had owned a gun, but his gun was confiscated just weeks before the attack that killed him, his wife, and two others – leaving the four with no way to fight back when terrorists open fire on their car.
The shooting led to the Internal Affairs Committee’s involvement. MKs told police in no uncertain terms that they must review the confiscations within the month, noting, “This could be a matter of life or death.”
“We must not have a ‘quick trigger finger’ when it comes to taking away their weapons,” said MK Aryeh Bibi (Kadima). He hinted that the confiscations may have happened for political reasons, saying, “You need to look at the officers who are involved in this, who they spend time with. It could be with the left wing… We need the best officers, those are the ones who need to redo the whole examination.”
Bibi added that police should review the confiscations “in one day, two days, a week. The inspection should not take months.”
Hevron Hero Gets Weapon, Payment
One of the cases often mentioned in discussions of weapons confiscations was that of Uri Amsali of Kiryat Arba, whose gun was confiscated shortly after he used it to fight off terrorists during a shooting ambush in 2002 that left 12 Israelis dead.
While most were praising Amsali for his bravery, the Interior Ministry called on him to hand in his weapon. Amsali successfully fought the order in 2003 with help from the Judea and Samaria Human Rights Organization.
However, five years later when he went to register the birth of a daughter, Amsali was told that there was an outstanding order for him to turn in his weapon – and that without doing so, he would not be allowed to register the birth. His appeals were rejected, with officials saying that they could not hear his case until he gave his weapon to police.
In 2010 Amsali filed a court case, which dragged out for several months. During that time he was forced to travel without a gun on roads on which fatal shooting attacks took place.
Days after the Internal Affairs Committee finished its work in the matter, Amsali was informed that he would be getting his gun back. Amsali decided to file for compensation as well, and the Jerusalem District Court backed his claim, awarding him nearly 7,000 shekels to cover the court fees and lawyers’ bills he had incurred while fighting the confiscation order. The Amsali case cost the state a total of approximately 10,000 shekels.