Netanyahu Convenes 'Emergency Session' on Escalating Violence

Senior officials in Jerusalem say, however, that the prime minister had plenty of opportunities in the past to introduce legislation against rock-throwers, but didn't act on them.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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A Palestinian protester kicks a burning tire during clashes in Jerusalem, September 15, 2015.
A Palestinian protester kicks a burning tire during clashes in Jerusalem, September 15, 2015.Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a meeting on Tuesday evening that his bureau had called during the holiday an “emergency meeting” on the escalation of stone-throwing in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu stressed during the meeting that Israel is committed to maintaining the Temple Mount status quo, but he will not allow rioters to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount, the Prime Minister's Office stated.

"We will fight by any means necessary against stone-throwing, firebombs and pipe bombs, and against those who fire flares to harm civilians and police officers," Netanyahu said at the beginning of the meeting.

"On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, it was proven again that stone-throwing can kill," Netanyahu added. "Such actions will face a very harsh response through punishment and law enforcement."

Netanyahu's office decided on more stringent measures in several areas: Examining a potential change in the rules of engagement, determining new minimum sentences for stone and firebomb throwing and imposing harsher fines for offenses committed by juveniles and their parents.

The prime minister will hold a meeting next week to promote the measures decided upon at Tuesday night's meeting.

However, senior officials in Jerusalem said the meeting had been set several days before Rosh Hashanah and was to have been held on Wednesday morning at 11:30. According to the senior officials, Netanyahu’s bureau had simply moved the meeting up to Tuesday evening and had created the impression that it was an urgent meeting.

Present at the meeting, which took place at the Prime Minister;s Office, was Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, members of the State Prosecutor’s Office and security officials.

The prime minister’s bureau had issued three different statements over the past three days about action Netanyahu intends to take with regard to stone-throwers in Jerusalem. On Sunday afternoon, a few hours before the holiday began, Netanyahu issued a statement rejecting a suggestion by Erdan that judges who hand down lenient sentences to stone-throwers should not be promoted.  In that statement, Netanyahu said the most efficient and immediate way to handle stone-throwers was by administrative detention.

On Monday morning Netanyahu’s bureau issued a response to the stone-throwing attack which caused Jerusalem resident Alexander Levlovich's fatal car accident  that “the prime minister looks gravely on the throwing of stones and incendiary devices against Israelis and intends to fight the phenomenon with all means including more severe penalties and enforcement.”

On Tuesday evening, about an hour before the meeting, Netanyahu’s bureau said the prime minister wants to “move ahead with legislation that will set minimum penalties for those who endanger human life – throwers of stones, incendiary devices and explosives.”

However, senior officials in Jerusalem said that in recent years Netanyahu had had a number of opportunities to expedite legislation on stone-throwers but he did not do so, and the issue was dealt with slowly. For example, only a few weeks ago a law was passed in the Knesset containing harsher penalties for stone-throwers, but that law was an initiative of former Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and had been in the works for over a year.

“This whole meeting is so that Netanyahu can release a statement that says the prime minister has ordered and the prime minister has directed,” a senior official said. 

“Netanyahu has been prime minister for six years continually. Nothing has prevented him from legislating laws on the matter before. But in fact he only declares and declares. He doesn’t move anything ahead and doesn’t ensure implementation,” the official said.

Erdan responded to criticism of his initiative in a Facebook post last night. “I will say that anyone who follows my public career knows that I don’t need lectures on following the law and protecting the court. Second, as someone who was a member of the Judicial Appointments Committee for seven years, I permit myself to say that to give the appointing body, which consists of MKs and ministers, full information on judges slated for promotion, including examples of their rulings, is an initiative that deepens the seriousness of the processI imagine that if I were to present which judges are lenient or strict with sex offenders, I’m sure I would not have been criticized this way.”

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