(photo credit: Channel 1)
A license to kill or a leg up for law enforcement - the verdict may still be out, but the Knesset approved the "Shai Dromi Bill" on Tuesday, an amendment to the Penal Law aimed at giving property owners more freedom to use fatal force against people who break into their homes, businesses or farms.
The legislation, named for the Negev farmer who in January 2007 shot at a group of people who broke into his farm to steal livestock, killing Khaled el-Atrash. Dromi was charged with manslaughter, a move that caused a public uproar. In the ensuing year, bumper-stickers appeared on cars nationwide bearing the phrase "We are all Shai Dromi," expressing a lack of faith in the police's ability to stop property crime, particularly in rural areas.
The Knesset vote Tuesday evening reflected that wave of support, with the bill, sponsored by MKs Yitzhak Aharonovich (Israel Beiteinu), Yisrael Katz (Likud), and Tzvi Hendel and Eli Gabai (National Union-National Religious Party), easily passing by 44-7.
"The incident involving Shai Dromi raised awareness of the number of incidents of robberies that became life-threatening and of the distress of Israeli farmers who must deal with crime with almost no recourse," Gabai said after the legislation was approved. "The law attempts to restore deterrent capacity, to make the police's work easier and to reduce crime throughout the country."
"Now, homeowners, ranchers and farmers will be certain that their home is their fortress," Aharonovich said.
But left-wing and Arab parties were less than enthusiastic. MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz) described the bill as "a death penalty for property crime."
"Thieves and robbers should be punished, but we should not allow property owners to determine an immediate death sentence," said MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), who mounted a fiery opposition to the bill from the Knesset speaker's podium.
Unlike earlier restrictions on criminal liability in cases of self-defense, under the new law a property owner does not have to face "a real danger to his own or another person's life, freedom, bodily welfare or property" to justify shooting. However, "the provision will not apply if the [property owner's] act was manifestly unreasonable under the circumstances in order to repel the intruder or enterer."