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By a large majority, the Knesset yesterday passed a law absolving from liability a person who kills an intruder to his home, business or farm. The law is informally called the "Shai Dromi law" after a Negev farmer who shot and killed an alleged sheep rustler on his farm in January 2007.

Dromi was charged with manslaughter in an ongoing case.

Opponents of the legislation claimed that the new law amounted to a license to kill, and the death penalty for burglars.

Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and the agricultural lobby reportedly pressured the Ministerial Committee for Legislation into the final, expanded version of the bill, which passed by a vote of 44 to 7. The law states that "a person shall not be held criminally responsible for an action that was immediately necessary to repel someone breaking into or entering a residence, place of business or fenced farm" with the intent to commit a crime.

The law does not apply when the act of self-defense was "patently unreasonable," or in the event that a provocation led to the break-in.

MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al) said during the debate that the law would cause soldiers coming home at light to be shot and killed. "What is more important, the life of a burglar or a cow?" he asked.

Meretz faction chair Zahava Gal-On called the law "a death sentence for crimes against property."

"MK Yisrael Katz (Likud), one of the law's proposers, said that he was "sure that after a few cases in which burglars are shot, there will be a dramatic decline in the number of burglaries."

MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) said "the Knesset is creating one of the most racist bodies of law in history."

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) added that the law was one belonging to the "wild south," providing "a license for murder."

Chairman of the Knesset Constitution Law and Justice Committee, Professor Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) said the law was "not good," and warned against improper interpretation. "I repeat, it does not give a license to kill," he said, citing the clause that the act had to be "immediately necessary" to repel the burglar.

The Cattle Growers Association welcomed the law. The association's chairman, Haim Dayan, called the Knesset decision "courageous," adding: "Too many cattlemen and farmers are exposed every day to serious crimes - invasion and theft of their property, and physical injury. They will now be able to defend their property and their lives."