AG Opposes Legislating Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Stone-throwers

Netanyahu also backtracks earlier support for minimum penalties, calling instead for a trial period, one-year provision.


Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein expressed opposition on Sunday to legislating mandatory minimum penalties for individuals caught throwing stones or incendiary devices. Speaking on Sunday at a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on the escalation in Jerusalem, Weinstein proposed instead instituting minimum penalties for these offenses through a temporary provision that would be in effect for one year.

Weinstein said that a one-year temporary provision would be a trial period in which it would be determined whether there is a need for mandatory minimums, and whether such penalties would deter the throwers of stones and firebombs.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said at the meeting that the proposed year-long provision was not enough, and that it should be instituted for three years.

A decision will be made on the matter during a meeting Netanyahu will hold on Thursday. Shaked told Haaretz that she intends to come to Thursday’s meeting with a preliminary version of a bill that calls for a three-year provision.

Weinstein’s opposition to legislating mandatory minimum penalties led Netanyahu to backtrack on the strong support he had given to the idea when speaking on camera only a few hours earlier at the beginning of Sunday's cabinet meeting. 

At that point, Netanyahu joined Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan's criticism of the Israeli court system's methods of dealing with sentencing stone-throwers.

Marc Israel Sellem

"This is a norm that should apply to every citizen of Israel, every resident of Israel and every judge in Israel," said Netanyahu. "With all due respect to the court, it is our right and our obligations to impose this norm, as we did with sex offenders. A minimum sentence will be imposed on stone-throwers."

A statement released Sunday afternoon by Netanyahu’s bureau sounded much less firm. It said that the prime minister was “leaning toward the idea raised in the meeting to stiffen penalties – setting mandatory minimum penalties for stone-throwers by means of a temporary provision that would be in place for a year at the first stage.” The statement added that “for throwing firebombs and firecrackers a temporary provision for a few years will be studied.”

During Sunday’s meeting the attorney general also opposed relaxing the rules governing the use of live fire by police against individuals caught throwing stones or firebombs. He said authorization for the use of a 0.22 inch Ruger sniper rifles was enough and has proven effective over the past few days. Weinstein also said that the rules of engagement did not have to be made much more detailed, as the police are demanding, but agreed to re-examine the procedures.

Justice Minister Shaked said she agreed with Weinstein on that point.

Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu also discussed the escalating violence on Temple Mount, and said it was not Israel that was trying to change the status quo at the holy site. According to Netanyahu, it is the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian Authority and the Islamist Movement in Israel that are flaming the tensions there.

"Anyone with complaints about these developments should lodge them not with Israel, but with Ramallah, Gaza and the instigators in the Galilee and unfortunately also Turkey," said Netanyahu.

The prime minister added that senior Hamas official Salah Aruri, who is based in Turkey, incites violence on Temple Mount at an hourly rate, and has even encouraged people to bring explosive devices into the site. "Bringing explosives into the Al-Aqsa Mosque is a change to the status quo," Netanyahu said. "We will not change the status quo and we will not let someone drag the Temple Mount into violence."