Israel's Security Cabinet Sets 4-year Minimum Sentence for Stone-throwers

Cabinet also clarifies rules of engagement, which now allow police to open fire when lives of officers or civilians are at risk, Netanyahu says.

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Palestinian youths throw rocks at Israeli security forces in Jerusalem.
Palestinian youths throw rocks at Israeli security forces in Jerusalem.Credit: AP

The security cabinet has decided to issue a temporary order that would set a four-year minimum sentence for stone- and firebomb-throwers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau said Thursday. The order is to remain in effect for three years.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein voiced opposition to legislating minimum sentencing for such crimes, instead recommending a temporary order that would remain in effect for a year. However, the cabinet decided to issue the order for three years at Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's insistence.

Officials who took part in the meeting noted that the ministers accepted the attorney general's position that the minimum sentencing would only apply to adults who throw stones and firebombs. They also accepted his recommendation to leave a loophole that would allow judges to deviate from the minimum sentence as long as they can justify it. 

The prime minister's bureau noted the minimum sentence constitutes just a fifth of the 20-year maximum sentence for throwing stones and firebombs.

At the conclusion of Thursday's meeting, Netanyahu said that his cabinet wishes to change what has become the "norm," where one  "can hurl these lethal and murderous objects without response and without being foiled."

According to the prime minister's bureau, part of the meeting focused on clarifying the rules of engagement, and conveying these rules to the police. The ministers were presented with scenarios in which opening fire is justified, i.e. when the life of a police officer or a civilian life is at risk. The ministers were also explained the limitations of opening fire.

"Until recently, police officers would open fire when their own lives were at risk," Netanyahu said. "From now on, they will be allowed to open fire – and they will know they have a right to do so – when anyone's life is in danger."  

The cabinet also decided to take measures against minors over the age of 14 who throw stones, as well as their parents. The measures include revoking stipends of parents whose children are sentenced to prison. The cabinet will examine the legality of fining parents to minors aged 12-14, and imposing bail on parents to minors under the age of 12.

At the end of the meeting, Netanyahu addressed the unrest on Temple Mount, asserting that Israel is maintaining the status quo.

"Any claims about our intentions to harm sites holy to Islam are nonsense," he said. "We are not the ones to change the status quo. Those who take pipe bombs to mosques are the ones changing the status quo."

He said Israel will take action to maintain law and order and called on the Palestinian Authority to "stop the wild incitement." 

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