Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked reintroduced a draft law Thursday that would extend the maximum sentence for stone throwers in Israel to 20 years and also alleviate the burden on the state to prove “intent to harm” during prosecution.
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.
Currently, convicted stone throwers generally receive only up to two years’ jail time.
That gap, explained a written draft from Shaked’s office, demonstrated a need for new legislative action because current sentences do not properly reflect the actual severity of the crime.
The new legislation would introduce a harsher punishment for people who throw stones at moving vehicles or police officers in the line of duty, lengthening the sentence of people convicted for this offense.
Rock-throwing by Palestinians protesting settler activity 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 goal of this legislative amendment is to help deal with the phenomenon of stone-throwing at moving vehicles, whether they belong to civilians or law enforcement, which has become common over the last several years and resulted in roughly 1,000 indictments being filed,” an introduction to the draft stated.
The new legislation would create two tiers of offense, in which 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.
“Israel is taking vigorous action against terrorists and those who throw stones, fire bombs and fireworks,” Netanyahu said ahead of a ministerial vote on the matter. “We will also pass stronger legislation on the issue. All of this is in order to restore quiet and security throughout Jerusalem.”
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 one judge in district courts, rather before tribunals of three.