The Knesset Law Committee on Monday approved an amendment to the Criminal Code stiffening the sanctions against assaulting a victim over the age of 65. The bill must now be approved by the Knesset plenum in final readings to be passed into law. The draft of the bill was worked out by the government and MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beitenu), who originally initiated it. Until now, there has been no provision specifically relating to assault against an elderly person. Current criminal law addresses only "regular" assault and assault against minors and defenseless persons. According to the proposal, the punishment for assaulting an elderly person and causing palpable injury will be a maximum of five years in prison. Today, the punishment for palpable injury in regular assault cases is three years, and five years in cases involving minors or defenseless persons. The punishment for causing severe injury to an elderly person will be seven years - the same as it is in "regular" assault cases and assaults against minors or defenseless persons. The final draft of the bill also includes a provision forbidding judges from handing down a suspended jail sentence unless a specific explanation is given. In all other cases, the judge will have to send the defendant to prison for at least part of the sentence. The final amendment draft of Rotem's bill was much tamer than the bill presented in his name to the plenum in first reading. He had demanded that an assault on an elderly person causing palpable injury carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, and an assault causing severe injury carry a 20-year sentence. During Monday's meeting, Rotem explained that he had accepted the government's proposal because it was important to pass the bill as quickly as possible. Moshe Sharoni (Gil) demanded much harsher legislation. "We're wasting our time," he told the committee. "It is inconceivable that the Justice Ministry will dictate the law to us. I don't agree to this." Committee chairman Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) said the Knesset would monitor the impact of the law. If the law proved ineffective, it would make it more severe in the future.