Netanyahu: Courts must accept harsher measures for stone throwers

Prime minister blames Palestinians and the Muslim Brotherhood for ‘incitement’ causing violence on the Temple Mount

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel’s justice system must accept the cabinet’s bid to enforce harsher measures against those throwing rocks or Molotov cocktails, including changes in the rules of engagement to more effectively target those caught in the act.

Netanyahu, speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, also blamed Palestinians for inciting the recent uptick in violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

“We can’t accept the principle that in Jerusalem, our capital, or in any other part of Israel, people organize grassroots terror and start to throw Molotov cocktails at passing cars,” Netanyahu said. “That will not become the norm here. The opposite norm will be established — we will prevent you proactively, we will punish you with the full force of the law after the act. This norm we will transmit to every citizen, resident, and judge in Israel. With all due respect to the courts, it is our right and our duty to lay down this norm as we did with sex offenses.”

Netanyahu stressed that Israel is not seeking to alter the delicate balance that exists between Israeli authorities and Palestinians on the Temple Mount and accused the Palestinians of provoking unrest.

“Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo,” he said. “We aren’t the ones changing the status quo. Groups are inflaming wild incitements that have no basis — as though Israel is trying to prevent Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount or wants to destroy the mosques, or other wild things that have been said — they are the ones causing the incitement. This incitement comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, from the Islamic Movement in Israel, Hamas, and, to my regret, the Palestinian Authority.”

The prime minister’s comments came after a week of nearly daily violence on the Temple Mount, around Jerusalem and in the West Bank. The unrest on the Mount began last Sunday, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, after police, acting on information from the Shin Bet security service, raided the compound and found pipe bombs and other improvised weapons, apparently prepared in advance for a riot to disrupt visits by Jews to the site.

“Stones and Molotov cocktails are lethal weapons. They can kill and have killed — and therefore recently we have changed the rules of engagement for police in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “Already over the weekend they used new methods under new rules and struck at those throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.”

Last week Netanyahu vowed to push through significant changes in law to counter the attacks.

The measures would include increased use of rubber bullets and the use of live sniper fire by police in Jerusalem in some cases, as well as severely increased penalties against those convicted of throwing rocks or Molotov cocktails that would see the minimum sentence for stone throwers increased to 4-5 years in prison, while those caught throwing firebombs would serve no less than 10 years behind bars.

Parents of stone-throwing minors could be fined NIS 100,000 ($26,000) under the new laws, Channel 2 reported at the time.

The Temple Mount compound is the holiest site in Judaism, which venerates it as the site of the biblical temples, and the third-holiest site in Islam. Under long-standing regulations introduced by Israel when it captured Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War, Jews are allowed to visit but cannot pray there to avoid provoking tensions.

Even with Netanyahu pushing the legislation through the Knesset, it will likely take several months before such laws are enacted.

Times of Israel staff and AFP contributed to this report.

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