An Israeli ministerial legal committee approved Sunday a bill that could see protesters who throw stones at moving vehicles jailed for up to 10 years.
The bill, which faces a series of parliament readings before coming into effect, would amend an existing law that allows stone-throwers to be jailed for 20 years, but only if it can be proven they intended to inflict harm.
Currently, convicted stone-throwers generally receive up to two years’ jail time.
However, the new version would enable 10 years imprisonment for “throwing stones or other objects at travelling vehicles in a manner that could endanger the passenger’s safety” or harm the vehicle, the bill read.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked of the far-right Jewish Home party, who presented the bill and heads the ministerial committee for legislation that approved it, noted that stone-throwers were currently receiving “very soft punishments compared to their crimes,” since intent was difficult to prove.
The legislation is the first major move by the new justice minister, seeking to put a measure back on track that was okayed by the cabinet last year but failed to become law by the time the parliament was dissolved ahead of the March 17 snap elections.
“The amendment to the law effectively places the responsibility on the stone-thrower and not the prosecutor,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Anyone who throws stones at cars or people has to assume someone will get hurt.”
Rock-throwing by Palestinians is a frequent occurrence on West Bank roads, as well as in East Jerusalem, and less commonly in some parts of Israel proper during protests.
Israeli settlers have also been known to hurl stones at Palestinians or Israeli security forces during clashes.
While the attacks usually cause damage and minor injuries, there have been a number of cases of fatalities and serious injuries from rocks being thrown.
The new legislation would create two tiers of offense; the lower one, in which clear intent to harm cannot be proven, would be punished with a shorter length of jail time, while more severe crimes would trigger the maximum sentence.
The proposal last year was pushed forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and came amid an uptick in attacks in East Jerusalem and the West Bank as tensions rose over the status of the Temple Mount.
Last year’s proposal was not intended to cover the West Bank. It is unclear if this version would.
Under the proposal, cases would be decided before a judge in district courts, rather before tribunals of three.
Gedalyah Reback contributed to this report.