The Knesset has voted down a bill that would have imposed a mandatory minimum sentence on arsonists who endanger lives by setting fire to public property. The bill was proposed by MK Yaakov “Ketzaleh” Katz, of Ichud Leumi (National Union). The MK explained that it was intended to recognize the recent wave of terror by arson for what it is and act as a deterrent to the ease in which the arsonists, overwhelmingly found to be Arabs up to now, have been setting fire to public property with a lighted match for a weapon.
The vote followed a recent wave of Arab arson that stretched fire departments' resources as they were battling the tragic Carmel fire, the largest fire Israel has seen in decades. Israel had to receive international aid in fighting the flames.
Ketzaleh's bill would have seen anyone convicted of setting fire to public property sent to prison for a minimum of five years.
In his speech to the Knesset defending the proposal, Ketzaleh reminded his fellow MKs of the terrible fire that recently hit the Carmel, killing 43 and leaving hundreds of people homelessi. The punishment mandated in the bill for attempting to cause such destruction purposefully is still not in proportion to the intent of the perpetrator, whether he succeeds or not, said the MK . Creating more strict sentences for arson would be part of the process of learning from the tragedy, he claimed.
He reminded those present that the Carmel fire, and the more than 20 arson attacks carried out while it raged in northern Israel, was not Israel's first. More than 1,760 such fires, albeit on a much smaller scale, have broken out since the state was established in 1948, he said.
He called for the State Comptroller to look into the cause of the fires, and to investigate the mainstream media's silence regarding the arson as well.
After the bill failed to pass, Ketzaleh expressed regret, saying that the law would have been a significant factor in the fight to prevent the use of arson as a form of terrorism.