Knesset C'tee to Convene to Discuss Mounting Violence

The Knesset Interior Committee is to convene a special meeting during its summer recess to discuss the increased incidence of local violence.

The committee will hear testimony Wednesday from legal experts, senior police officers and other law-enforcement officials and ministerial representatives.

In light of the recent spate of murders, the Kadima Knesset faction submitted a petition, with the requisite 25 signatures by lawmakers, demanding a special Knesset debate on crime and the feeling among many Israelis that they are not safe.

However, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin decided that the best place for the debate would be the Knesset Interior Committee, chaired by MK David Azoulay (Shas). Rivlin, as well as the chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu), are also expected to take part in the discussion.

Rivlin said yesterday that he wanted to hold the meeting this week in the interior committee, rather than wait for a plenary session of the Knesset, due to convene only at the beginning of September, when the debate may not be relevant. The speaker added that he intended to allow any MK to speak, even if he or she does not belong to the committee.

Rivlin also convened a special meeting yesterday of representatives of the Budgets Division of the Finance Ministry and senior police officers in Jerusalem.

Said Rotem yesterday: "I intend to make every effort to provide law-enforcement authorities and the justice system with the means to deal with acts of extreme violence."

Rotem added that he would press for a law mandating harsher penalties for violent crimes and tougher minimum sentences.

In addition, he said he wants to formulate a scale determining the risk presented by persons suspected of perpetrating violent crimes, which will help guide the courts in deciding whether to incarcerate suspects throughout the proceedings against them.

Meanwhile, MK Arie Bibi (Kadima), head of a group of MKs that supports the police, said the force was too small in its present form to deal with the challenges it is facing.

Bibi said more funding should be given to the Israel Police, and added that the plan to establish municipal police departments should be advanced.

MK Moshe Matalon (Yisrael Beiteinu) called for the death sentence "for murderers such as the case of the lynch that happened over the weekend" - referring to the murder of Aryeh Karp on Tel Aviv's Tel Baruch promenade. Matalon said the death sentence would "deter others from such deviant acts."

MK's father attacked

Hours after MK Yohanan Plesner (Kadima) demanded a special meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee to discuss the murder of Aryeh Karp, Plesner's 70-year-old father was assaulted on the Tel Aviv promenade near Gordon Beach.

Plesner's father, Ulrich Plesner, a prominent architect, said he was walking to the beach for his daily swim at 6 A.M. when he saw a man of about 30 walking toward him.

Their eyes met, after which, the elder Plesner recounted, the man punched him in the stomach, smiled and then just continued walking.

"It seemed he got pleasure out of hitting an older person," Ulrich Plesner said, and added that after remembering the Karp murder, he decided to keep on walking. "I understood I could not overcome him and I didn't want things to escalate."

Like many citizens in such cases, the elder Plesner said he decided not to file a police complaint.

"What's the use? It's a waste of time. I don't think they can do anything," he said.

Said MK Plesner: "Luckily, in our case, the outcome was not tragic, but it's shocking to think how easy it is to attack innocent people."

The MK, who is spearheading legislation to toughen punishment for violent crimes, said police data on such incidents is problematic. "Every time we have evidence of shocking crimes, senior police officials pull out the same statistics that prove that there is no increase in the level of violence. Meanwhile, it's crystal clear that this is a serious phenomenon. Recognition of its existence is essential for dealing with it."

Plesner added: "I don't expect the police to deploy an officer on every corner. But there should be involvement in initiating a comprehensive move to restore deterrance."

A public committee headed by jurist Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer of the Israel Democracy Institute, has since 2007 been drawing up recommendations for reforms in the adjudication of crimes involving killings.

The committee is studying the possibility of instituting a second-degree murder charge so that a killing that was not premeditated can be considered a form of murder - rather than manslaughter, as at present - and therefore carry a more severe punishment.

The committee is also discussing ways to make penalties for various types of murder more consistent and to reflect the circumstances in each case.