Israeli Knesset advances 3 bills to tighten control over security bodies

Israeli Knesset advances 3 bills to tighten control over security bodies

Bills would allow upcoming government to gain broader control over security bodies

By Zain Khalil

JERUSALEM (AA) - The Knesset (Israeli parliament) passed three bills in preliminary readings late Tuesday to ensure the upcoming government's control over Israeli security bodies.

Under Israeli law, these bills need to pass a further three votes in order to be enacted.

One of the bills, which got 62 votes in the 120-member Knesset, allows Aryeh Deri, head of the far-right Shas Party, to serve as a minister despite having a jail sentence over tax offenses, The Times of Israel newspaper reported.

The second bill, which won 61 votes, is an amendment to the Police Law to permit Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of far-right Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) Party, to receive broader control over the police in his capacity as national security minister in the upcoming government.

Prior to the vote, outgoing Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev warned that broadening the national security minister's powers would turn Israel into a "police state."

The third bill would allow Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism Party, to serve as minister within the Defense Ministry and to gain responsibility over the Civil Administration that rules the occupied West Bank.

Outgoing Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz decried the bill, which passed with 61 votes, saying it would create a parallel defense ministry.

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing bloc secured an outright majority in the Knesset in the elections that took place early last month.

On Sunday, the 28-day deadline given to Netanyahu to form a government expired, with President Isaac Herzog agreeing to extend the deadline for an additional 10 days at Netanyahu's request.

Under the law, the deadline can be extended for an additional 14 days. In the event of failure, the Israeli president assigns another deputy to form the government.

*Writing by Ahmed Asmar in Ankara

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