Supreme Court President Slams Bid to Block Promotion of Judges Lenient on Stone Throwers

Minister Erdan's reported initiative is 'fitting of countries we would not like to resemble,' Justice Miriam Naor says.

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Stone-throwing in East Jerusalem. The new legislation carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail, and applies only within the Green Line.
Stone-throwing in East Jerusalem. The new legislation carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail, and applies only within the Green Line.Credit: Emil Salman

Supreme Court President Miriam Naor condemned on Sunday an initiative reportedly promoted by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan that would block the promotion of judges who issue lenient sentences for stone throwing.

"The statements attributed to Minister Erdan are fitting of countries we would not like to resemble, not of our state as a Jewish and a democratic state," Naor said in a statement.

Naor added that the minister's initiative "contradicts the principle of the personal independence of the judge, which is a central component of every democratic regime," as well as the Basic Law: The Judiciary, which states that judges must answer only to the law.

"If this or that sentence seems too lenient to the executive branch, the appropriate course of action is to appeal it," Naor said, stressing that judges will continue to do their job, "fearing no one."

On Sunday, Channel 2 reported that Erdan believes the courts are harming efforts to deter stone throwing, the maximum sentence for which has recently been set at 20 years. Erdan's proposal calls for taking judges' sentences in such cases in consideration when deciding their promotion from magistrate's to district courts.

According to the report, Erdan is scheduled to meet Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who heads the committee for judges appointments on Wednesday to discuss the proposal. In their meeting, Erdan will present Shaked with some 30 sentences issued in recent years, in which stone throwers – both minor and adults – were sentenced to community service or probation. The harshest sentences in the cases Erdan intends to show Shaked were given to repeat offenders, who have been sentenced to between four and eight months in prison.

On Sunday noon, Netanyahu also rejected Erdan's initiative and said stone throwers should be fought with administrative detention pending the completion of legal proceedings, legislating minimum sentences and enforcing them. "This is the immediate and most useful way by which the government and the Knesset could handle these law breakers," Netanyahu said.

Last July, the Knesset passed into law an amendment to the Penal Code that will enable those who throw stones at cars to be convicted and sentenced for up to 20 years without the state having to prove that they were trying to damage cars or harm their occupants. The new law also makes it easier to punish those who throw stones at police patrol cars.

Last week, State Attorney Shai Nitzan released new instructions for law enforcement against stone throwers, first of which was the instruction to file for an arrest until the end of legal proceedings for nearly every suspect charged with stone throwing.

Earlier this month, Netanyahu ordered the army to consider relaxing the rules of engagement against Palestinians who throw stones or firebombs at cars on Route 443, one of the two main highways linking Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. However, a week later a senior IDF officer said that there has been no recent increase in attacks along this road.

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