Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Monday that she intends to go ahead and present legislation on minimum sentences for Arab rock-throwers on Thursday.
Speaking on Army Radio, Shaked played down reports that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is locked in combat with the government over the latter's attempts to pass legislation mandating minimum sentences for rock and firebomb terror, and giving soldiers and police more leeway in opening fire on such terrorists.
Shaked said that "someone" has been briefing the press in a way that made it seem as if there was a “drama” between ministers and Weinstein, when in fact there has only been a normal dialogue.
"The Attorney General's right and duty,” she explained, “is to give his opinion. In the end, if there isn't something unconstitutional about the legislation, it is the government that decides whether to legislate it or not.”
Shaked added that Weinstein thinks that since recent legislation has determined that throwing rocks is punishable by ten years' jail time even without proof of intent to injure, it would be better to let the new legislation take effect before passing minimum sentence laws. This is a reasonable opinion, she said, but one she disagrees with.
"The government is the sovereign and it makes decisions – even if they are contrary to the opinions of the legal experts,” said Shaked.
"There are minimum sentences today regarding sexual assault and assaulting a police officer,” she noted, “and we will add this regarding throwing rocks at vehicles.”
While Weinstein reportedly wants the minimum sentence legislation to take the form of a temporary order valid for only one year, Shaked insisted that the temporary order be valid for three years. “There is no point in passing a law as a temporary order for one year because it takes time to press charges,” she explained.
Who's the boss?
While Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced at a Sunday cabinet meeting that the new rules were already in force, it appears that Weinstein is taking his time in giving his agreement.
Netanyahu wants to impose a five-year minimum sentence on rock throwers. Weinstein thinks the punishment should be 2.5 years, reported Channel 2 Sunday evening. The prime minister made clear that this is not enough, in the top-level discussion held earlier in the day.
Regarding firebomb throwers, the prime minister wants the minimum sentence to be 10 years, and Weinstein will only announce his opinion on Thursday.
There has been a growing murmur of discontent in recent days among politicians, ordinary citizens and even the normally left-wing media, regarding Weinstein's unlimited power to shoot down government decisions, which some say makes him the "real leader" of Israel despite never having been elected.
Netanyahu announced in Sunday's government session that he has instructed “legal elements” to reconsider the current open-fire instructions, so that the police can prevent terror and deter terrorists. Weinstein said in response that he would “look into” changing the open-fire instructions.
Weinstein is both Attorney General and Legal Adviser to the Government, in an arrangement unique to the Israeli government. As such, he can stymie any government decision by refusing to defend it against a potential High Court motion.