Knesset panel nearing consensus on 'Shai Dromi bill'

Legislation named after farmer who killed Beduin thief would boost homeowners', farmers' right to self-defense.

Dromi 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 1)
Dromi 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 1)
The Knesset Law Committee on Tuesday appeared to be moving closer to agreement on a more moderate version of a private member's bill aimed at providing greater protection from indictment to homeowners and farmers who open fire at intruders in self-defense. The bill is known as the "Shai Dromi law," as it was inspired by an incident in which Shai Dromi killed a Beduin who had trespassed on his Negev farm to steal sheep, and was indicted for the killing. Farmers have suffered increasing theft of equipment and produce in recent years. Recently, the Knesset approved in its first reading a proposal to address the problem by granting them, and homeowners in general, greater freedom of action in resisting such intruders. However, the committee and the government could not agree on a joint bill and therefore submitted separate ones to the plenum. The government said the MKs' bill was too far-reaching and would encourage victims of intrusion to open fire even when they were not in genuine danger. Both versions were approved in first reading and the committee must now either merge them or choose one over the other. Judging by Tuesday's meeting, a majority will rally around a more moderate version of the bill drafted by the MKs. According to that version, as it was approved in first reading, "No person shall bear criminal responsibility for an act that was done to repel someone who enters or breaks into his home to commit, or to try to commit, a crime." MK Yitzhak Levy (National Union-National Religious Party) proposed adding two constraints to the proposal. According to these constraints, the homeowners' response to the intrusion would have to be "reasonable" and "immediate." Levy also suggested that according to the second article in the bill, which specifically grants protection to farmers, the farm should be defined as that part of it which is fenced off. Levy said that unlike fields and orchards, the fenced off part of a farm is where farmers keep most of their equipment. The government bill provides no special protection for farmers. Three MKs who had suggested amendments providing greater freedoms for homeowners - Yisrael Katz (Likud), Zvi Hendel (NU-NRP) and Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Israel Beiteinu) - said they would support Levy's suggestions. However, David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) said he had gone as far as he could. "There is a distorted perception among some people," he told the committee. "I saw in one newspaper that the Justice Ministry believes the bill will increase the number of killings. This is a distorted and unjust understanding. These people are turning the farmers into murderers. The farmers are not killers or potential killers. When an ordinary person is confronted with an intruder, he is in tangible danger. Let's stop defending crime. If the bill is passed as is, I can guarantee you that potential intruders will think twice before breaking into a house." The discussion in the Knesset Law Committee was to continue.