Dichter: Don't permit firing at thieves

Urges Knesset not to change law following shooting of Beduin by farmer.

avi dichter 298 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
avi dichter 298 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter warned the Knesset on Wednesday not to change the Penal Code to allow property owners to open fire at trespassers with impunity despite public anger over the rash of thefts in the agricultural sector. Dichter spoke to the Knesset Law Committee during a special session held to discuss the fine balance between an act of self-defense and murder following an incident on Saturday, when a farmer, Shai Dromi, shot and killed Beduin Khaled al-Atrash and seriously wounded another trespasser whom he caught trying to steal from his farm. "Criminal law does not allow anyone to kill a person until he has exhausted all other means of stopping him," said Dichter. "I urge you not to change the law when it comes to human life. Human life is too precious for that." Dichter was referring to a proposal by Likud MK Yisrael Katz to change the code so as to allow home owners to shoot robbers who break into their homes. "The police force is too small for this country," said Katz. If the Knesset changes the law to allow property owners to shoot, "robbers will think 10 times before breaking into a home," he continued. Meanwhile, Agriculture Ministry director-general Yael Shaltieli urged the legislature to approve a law initiated by Shai Hermesh (Kadima) and Orit Noked (Labor) that would increase the punishment for stealing agricultural machinery and place it on a par with stealing livestock. Currently, theft of machinery is considered a misdemeanor while stealing livestock is a felony. Shaltieli charged that the law was not enforced against agricultural robbers and therefore there was nothing to deter them. "The robbers become more brazen and the farmers more vulnerable," said Shaltieli. She said farmers were having trouble persuading insurance companies to insure them because of the situation. Yitzhak Levy (National Union-NRP), who is himself a member of moshav Kfar Maimon in the south, said he empathized with Dromi and that the farmer had not shot the thieves out of criminal motives. He said that in Kfar Maimon, residents carried out their own patrols and ambushes to protect their property. "We don't get protection so we protect ourselves," he said. But in doing so, he added, the residents themselves have become lawbreakers. Dichter stressed that the police were not the only ones responsible for enforcement of the law. There were also problems with the prosecution and the courts, which operated slowly. According to MK Michael Eitan (Likud), police prosecutors had a backlog of 13,000 files that had been investigated and were now ready to go to court, but the court was too overloaded to hear them.