A law that would substantially increase the penalties and punishment for thieves who steal produce and equipment from farms and agricultural facilities passed on its second and third Knesset reading Tuesday night. The law, sponsored by MK Ayelet Shaked, would allow courts to imprison such thieves for as much as six months.
Until the passage of the law, trespassing on privately owned agricultural facilities was treated as a minor crime, with the maximum penalties consisting of fines or community service. Such offenses will now be classified as “major crimes,” with the attendant change in punishment.
Farm thefts have become a major plague throughout Israel, with Palestinian and Bedouin gangs stealing crops, animals, and farming equipment, often on a large scale. Just a few weeks ago, for example, alert soldiers in Samaria managed to stop a massive sheep heist that could have dealt a serious blow to a local Jewish couple’s livelihood.
Farmers file literally thousands of complaints over such thefts each year, but police rarely act on them, considering them not important enough to deal with. Farmers, frustrated with the lack of action by authorities, often hire private security companies to protect them.
“We are changing the law and thereby hopefully we will change the situation,” said Shaked. “We are strengthening enforcement to bring an end to the ongoing plague of thefts. It is important to defend Israeli farmers and the Israeli agricultural industry from this phenomenon, as agriculture is an important basis of Israeli society,” she added.