Israel’s top public security official said he would push ahead with a plan to prevent jurists who are soft on stone-throwing to become judges, calling the act “attempted murder,” and pushing back against a top judge who came out against the campaign.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, speaking hours after the government said it would explore heavier penalties on stone throwers in the wake of a deadly Jerusalem attack Sunday, said a reported uptick in violence shouldn’t be termed an “intifada,” but said officials were still working to tamp down violence that set the capital on edge over the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
“I wouldn’t call it an intifada, but there’s definitely been a slow increase over the years in rock throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks,” he told Army Radio.
His words came as police beefed up their presence in the Old City of Jerusalem and elsewhere in the capital to clamp down on the violence.
On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting of top ministers and security officials to address the violence in Jerusalem, saying he plans “to fight this phenomenon by any means necessary, including implementing stricter sentences and enforcement.”
The emergency meeting came after three straight days of clashes between police and Muslim protesters atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City and a rock-throwing attack in the capital’s southeast that led to a car crash, killing the driver, Alexander Levlovitz.
The government had already been seeking to push a bill through Knesset that could see stone throwers sent away for decades, and Netanyahu recently said he backed exploring rewriting rules of engagement to consider using live fire in rock attacks, including against minors.
Erdan, who attended the emergency meeting, told Army Radio that he considered rock throwing a form of attempted murder.
“Stone throwing is attempted murder, [and] definitely firebombings,” he said.
The minister drew fire earlier in the week after saying that he would seek to keep jurists who oppose harsh penalties for stone throwers off the bench.
Supreme Court president Miriam Naor came out against the scheme, saying it would hamper a judge’s ability to work independently, which she said was a pillar of democracy, Army Radio reported.
Erdan told Army Radio that judges should not be immune to criticism, though.
“A judge needs to know that there will be oversight and public criticism also on their decisions,” he said.
On Tuesday night, Erdan wrote on Facebook he respected Naor, but it was his job to “find any way” to restore security.
“I assume that if i suggested promoting a judge who is soft or hard on sexual offenses, I wouldn’t get this much criticism,” he wrote.