Security cabinet to vote on tougher laws against stone-throwers

Despite A-G opposition, ministers to decide on introducing minimum sentences, relaxing rules of engagement in capital amid surge in attacks

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 20, 2015. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL/FLASH90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on September 20, 2015. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL/FLASH90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will convene his security cabinet on Thursday to vote on proposed legislation introducing mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of throwing rocks and firebombs, and easing the rules governing police use of live fire in rock-throwing incidents in Jerusalem.

The cabinet will also vote on introducing fines to parents of minors caught throwing rocks or firebombs and possibly revoking their social security benefits should they refuse to pay.

The cabinet vote comes despite opposition by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein who, at a meeting with Netanyahu on Sunday, suggested instituting minimum sentences for such offenses through a one-year trial period. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is 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 Sunday that “the government is sovereign and it decides, even if it is contrary to the position of the judiciary.”

“The prime minister is determined to have his plan passed in the cabinet and thereafter in quick legislation,” the Prime Minister’s Office said on Wednesday, as quoted in Haaretz.

Shaked said it was the attorney general’s “right and his duty is to give his opinion. At the end of the day, if something is not unconstitutional, [it is] the cabinet [that] decides whether to legislate the law or not. ”

“On the legislative level, the decision is ours — the cabinet ministers’,” Shaked added on Monday, noting that the law already provides for minimum sentences for sex offenses and assaults on police officers.

Netanyahu has been pushing for these legislative changes amid a surge in rock-throwing and firebomb attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank in recent weeks, including one that proved fatal last Sunday night when an Israeli driver was killed crashing his car into a pole after coming under attack by suspected Palestinian rock-throwers in Jerusalem.

At an emergency meeting last Tuesday once the Rosh Hashanah holiday ended, Netanyahu announced he would seek to toughen punishments for such attacks. Subsequent meetings turned up additional proposed measures.

At the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu ordered a review of the rules of engagement used by police officers and was considering allowing police to use live fire in certain circumstances when civilian lives are in danger.

Permission would be granted “in very limited instances, with lots of restrictions,” Israel’s Channel 2 said Saturday. It would likely be granted during incidents considered “grassroots terror” or lone-wolf attacks, as opposed to during mass demonstrations, the report said, noting nonetheless that this would represent a marked departure from current procedures in East Jerusalem and Israel.

Netanyahu is seeking a minimum sentence for stone throwers of 4-5 years in prison, while those caught throwing firebombs would serve no less than 10 years behind bars. Parents of minors caught throwing stones could be fined NIS 100,000 ($26,000) under the new laws.

Shaked, meanwhile, was seeking to impose fines on the parents of children under the age of 12 of NIS 10,000-20,000 ($2,500-$5,000), which would be returned if the children do not repeat the crime within a year.

Under current Israeli law, children below the age of 12 cannot be held accountable for crimes.

Most Popular
read more: