Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet on Sunday approved an amendment to Israel's penalty code to enable a more severe punishment for those convicted of throwing stones at vehicles.
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The amendment will allow a jail sentence of 10 years to be imposed on offenders who endanger the safety of a person or vehicle, even without proof of intent to harm. It will also ease the judicial system's ability to enforce an existing law imposing a prison sentence of up to 20 years on those convicted of throwing stones or other objects with the intent of causing serious bodily harm.
The cabinet's approval of the bill is just a preliminary step; it must still be brought to the Ministerial Committee on Legislatiojn and to the Knesset for vote.
Netanyahu told ministers at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that Israel would crack down on terrorists of every means: "Israel is operating aggressively against terrorists, against stone throwers, against hurlers of firebombs and firecrackers," Netanyahu said. "We will legislate more aggressive legislation to this regard, in order to return quiet and security to every part of Jerusalem."
The amendment is based on the recommendations of a committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit, which examined how to deal with the security situation in East Jerusalem.
The committee found during its deliberations that under the current law, police and courts are limited in their abilities to punish stone-throwing offenders; Under existing law, the state must prove intent to cause harm, or base its case on other laws in order to convict rock throwers.
The amendment will make it possible to convict and punish the violators even if the state cannot prove they intended to damage cars or injure passengers. In addition, the proposed law would for the first time allow the conviction of those who throw rocks at police cars.
The draft law states that the crime of throwing rocks at cars will be divided into two categories of offenses: The basic degree, for which the punishment is 10 years in prison, will outlaw throwing rocks or other objects at vehicles in motion in a way that could endanger the safety of a person in the vehicle or someone nearby. The more serious offense, for which the punishment will be up to 20 years in prison, would be for those who are convicted of also intending to cause a person serious bodily harm, by throwing rocks or other objects at vehicles.
The proposed law would also introduce a new offense: Throwing a rock or other object at a police vehicle or a police officer with the intention of interfering in the carrying out of his duty. The punishment in such cases would be 5 years in prison.
The Jerusalem district prosecutor’s office over the last few months has instituted a harsher municipal policy regarding Palestinians suspected of throwing stones or other disturbances of the peace – requesting remand until the end of proceedings. The new policy, in place since July, also applies to minors. As a result, dozens of Palestinian minors have been jailed for a month or two before their trial starts.