The police would be able to employ “reasonable force” and detain children under age 12 who are actively involved in disturbances in resistance activities against eviction. This was recently determined by a special inter-ministerial committee headed by Deputy State Attorney Shai Nitzan.

What does “reasonable force” mean? According to the committee, this refers to balanced and sensible force, to prevent the minor from resisting being moved.

The committee, whose members included representatives of the police, the Justice Ministry and the Welfare Ministry, convened in light of scenarios predicting that minors under the age of 12, that is, under the age of criminal responsibility, would be involved in the activity against the evacuation of settlements.

During the discussions, the committee members referred to incidents in which children under the age of criminal responsibility attacked soldiers during evacuations, pulled their shirts or threw stones at them, but due to legal restrictions it was impossible to do anything about it. However, the license to employ force does not only apply to rioters during disengagement. The committee members noted that the age of delinquents in general is dropping, and last year 2,100 children were involved in various offenses, including knife attacks.

The instructions that will be given over the coming days to police officers who will be involved in the evacuation state that as a rule, there is no authority to arrest minors under age 12, even if they have committed an offense. However, in cases where children are actively involved in disturbances that border on an offense, the police officers will be permitted to employ reasonable force in order to remove and detain the rioters.

The minor will be detained until the arrival of a welfare officer. If this is a first offense, the officer will warn the parents. If the offenses are repeated, the officer will consider declaring the minor a child “in need” who cannot be controlled by his parents. This is aimed at providing a custodial response to protect the minors from themselves and from being exploited by others.

If the minor is declared a child in need, the welfare officer can turn to the court, which can compel the parents to pay a bond for the minor. If the parents do not uphold the court’s decision, the welfare officer can turn to the court with a request to take the minor out of the home or impose a fine on the parents…

This piece ran in the April 25th, 2005 issue of Yediot Aharonot