Knesset advances tougher punishments for stone throwers

Lawmakers vote 42-11 in favor of bill that would up minimum sentence and slap hefty fines on people convicted in attacks

Palestinian youth holding rocks during clashes with Israeli police in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher on October 7, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Palestinian youth holding rocks during clashes with Israeli police in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher on October 7, 2015. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Knesset on Monday approved the first reading of a bill that would increase minimum sentences for those convicted of throwing stones or Molotov cocktails and levy financial sanctions on minors who throw stones or firebombs and their parents.

The bill, proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was part of a series of measures approved by the security cabinet last month that are aimed at combating stone-throwing, including mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of throwing rocks and firebombs, and an easing of the rules governing police use of live fire in rock-throwing incidents.

Of the 120 members of Knesset, 42 voted in favor and 11 voted against the proposal. The bill will now head to committee and, after amendment, head back to parliament for final approval.

Netanyahu responded to the passing of the bill, saying that it “is part of a series of steps that the cabinet adopted as part of the fight against terrorism. There will be additional steps.”

Last month, the security cabinet unanimously agreed to back legislation to allow live fire in any case in which lives are endangered; use of .22 Ruger sniper rifles against rock throwers; a minimum four-year prison sentence for rock throwers, including imprisonment and fines for minors aged 14-18; the cancellation of welfare benefits for minors in prison; and an evaluation of fining parents of convicted children aged 12-14.

The cabinet vote came despite opposition by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who, at a meeting with Netanyahu, suggested instituting minimum sentences for such offenses through a one-year trial period. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was said to be looking for a three-year provision.

Weinstein also objected to relaxing the rules of engagement, arguing that his recent authorization of the use in East Jerusalem of the Ruger rifle, a .22 caliber firearm with a capacity to neutralize without being as potentially deadly as heavier weapons, was a sufficient measure for the moment.

Both Netanyahu and Shaked have brushed off Weinstein’s opposition, with the PM saying that “the government is sovereign and it decides, even if it is contrary to the position of the judiciary.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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