Israeli ministers pass bill jailing stone throwers for 20 years

A Palestinian protester uses a sling to throw stones towards Israeli border policemen during clashes following a protest against the near-by Jewish settlement of Qadomem, in the West Bank village of Kofr Qadom near Nablus (Reuters / Abed Omar Qusini)
Government ministers in Israel have voted to increase penalties ten-fold on people convicted of throwing stones at vehicles from two to 20 years, in a move designed to deal with a wave of violence that has hit some of Jerusalem’s Arab districts.

If Israeli courts can prove that someone threw a stone with the intent of causing serious bodily harm, they may be able to impose a jail sentence of 20 years.

The law would also allow the conviction of people who hurl rocks at police cars or police officers with the aim of hindering them from carrying out their duty.

If intent to cause harm can’t be proven, then the amendments still allow for a hefty 10-year sentence if the safety of a person or a vehicle is endangered. At the moment, such crimes have a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Although the changes have been given the green light by the Israeli cabinet, they must still be approved by the Knesset and the ministerial Committee for Legislation.

The proposed legislation change stems from the recommendation of a committee headed by Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit, which was tasked with dealing with the deteriorating security situation in East Jerusalem.

There has been a sharp increase in violence in many Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem in recent weeks. On Sunday, there were two incidents in East Jerusalem involving rock throwing. In one incident, in Talpiot, two juveniles were arrested. A bus was targeted in a separate incident on Suleiman Street.

A small improvised bomb was hurled at police officers in the Shuafat area of East Jerusalem on Saturday. In the Old City and Wadi Joz, fireworks were launched at policemen and a 13-year-old Palestinian was arrested after attacking a Jewish man near Damascus Gate.

"Israel is operating aggressively against terrorists, against stone throwers, against hurlers of firebombs and firecrackers. We will legislate more aggressive legislation to this regard, in order to return quiet and security to every part of Jerusalem," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as quoted by Haaretz.

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A new policy that has been in place since July and applies to minors as well as adults means that Palestinians are being held in custody from the time they are arrested until the end of proceedings.

There were also minor clashes in the West Bank after Friday’s prayers. However, the West Bank would not be subject to the new legislation, as it is effectively ruled by the Israeli military.