The Defense Ministry extended administrative detention for Palestinians from six to 12 months, an action which prompted criticism from Washington and condemnation by the Israeli left.
By order of Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the military may now keep a person in custody for a full year without pressing charges or holding a trial.
It must be approved by a military judge, however, and brought before the judge after six months for re-evaluation.
The defense establishment said the extension was necessary because of the deteriorating situation in the administered territories, where the Palestinian uprising is now in its 21st month.
If the situation improves, the order could be reversed, defense sources said.
The United States reportedly criticized the new order, saying it was “not conducive to peace.”
Yossi Sarid, a Knesset member of the leftist Citizens Rights Movement, called it “another nail in the coffin of Israeli democracy.”
Knesset member Amnon Rubinstein of the Center-Shinui party said the order was contrary to the rule of law.
Administrative detention, a holdover from the emergency regulations of the British Mandate period, is used when the military authorities lack sufficient evidence to try a suspect or do not want to expose their witnesses at a trial.
An estimated 5,000 Palestinians have been placed in administrative detention since the intifada began in December 1987. Currently, more than 2,000 are being held, with most of them imprisoned at the Ketziot detention camp in the Negev.
Meanwhile, security forces are bracing for a possible showdown after orders take effect this weekend limiting access to Israel for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Computerized identity cards have been issued to about 60,000 residents of the territories who proved they had neither criminal nor security records.
The cards are essential for Arabs to work in Israel.
Despite exhortations by the intifada leadership to boycott their jobs, about 5,000 card applicants showed up at the Erez checkpoint on the border of the Gaza Strip on Sunday.
The huge crowd created disorder, forcing soldiers to fire into the air.
Intifada activists confiscated many of the magnetized cards, apparently with the intention of reissuing them to persons they select.
The authorities have already issued new cards to replace them.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.