In move to restore order to Jerusalem: Up to 20 years in jail for stone-throwers

Government approves amendment that increases sanctions for those who throw stones at cars; Netanyahu: Israel is acting firmly to restore quiet to capital.

PM Netanyahu speaking about security of Jerusalem at weekly cabinet meeting, November 2, 2014
The cabinet approved an amendment to the criminal law on Sunday that, if passed by the Knesset, would increase the maximum penalty for people who throw rocks at vehicles to 20 years in prison.
Still, a Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed that there had been no change in the long-standing policy for prosecutors to seek three months of prison time in average cases involving rock-throwing minors.
Although the ministry spokesman noted that the bill that received government support on Sunday addresses all rock-throwers and that the policy applies only to minors, the vast majority of rock-throwers are in fact minors.
The government was trying to curb the problem that has especially plagued the capital over the past few months, as rioters in east Jerusalem have targeted the light rail, as well as buses and private vehicles, with stone-throwing and other violence.
The proposed amendment to the law provides for up to 20 years in prison for an individual who throws a rock or other projectiles at a vehicle with specific intent to harm.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that stricter laws would be passed to return quiet and security to all parts of Jerusalem.
“Israel is acting firmly against terrorists, rock-throwers, against firebomb throwers and against those who use fireworks,” the prime minister said at the weekly cabinet meeting.
“I have ordered the reinforcement of massive amounts of forces and other means to guarantee the rule of law in the capital,” he added.
“A terrorist is a terrorist. It makes no difference what weapon he uses,” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said.
Israeli citizens should not live in fear from rock-throwers and Israel would respond to all acts of terrorism resolutely and forcefully, she said before the start of the cabinet meeting.
The amendment provides for up to 10 years jail for a rock-thrower who damages a vehicle and as a consequence endangers the life of a passenger or bystander, but does so without specific intent to harm.
Cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit invested significant time on the amendment.
A June draft of the preamble to the amendment complained that regarding punishments, the current law does not sufficiently distinguish between dangerous rock-throwers, specifically those who attack moving vehicles, and less dangerous ones (such as one who might throw small rocks at stationary soldiers from a distance).
The preamble said that whereas low-grade rock throwing, as described, may pose very little danger to a soldier, dangerous rock throwing at passing vehicles has led to deaths and serious injury and deserves harsher punishment.
It complained that dangerous rock-throwers are sometimes getting short sentences, such as several months in jail, because the current law requires proving a criminal’s specific intent to harm people, not just that the criminal threw a rock.
The amendment includes harsher punishments for stone-throwing against patrolling police vehicles.
Until now, those who committed other crimes – such as attacking a police officer – were charged with offenses that carried lesser sentences.
If the amendment becomes law, a court will be able to sentence a person to five years in prison for the specific crime of throwing stones at police patrols.
Around 1,000 indictments for stone-throwing are submitted each year, the preamble noted.
In addition to east Jerusalem, for years one of the largest categories of offenses in the West Bank has been rock-throwing, including a few cases that led to death, such as the Asher Palmer attack, or that which wounded baby Adele Biton.