Jewish farmer tends his vineyard
Jewish farmer tends his vineyardIsrael news photo: Flash 90

The lives of Israeli farmers and agricultural specialists have become "hell" - according to a statement made today (Sunday) by Minister of Economics Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi/Jewish Home). Bennett made the comments during MK Ayelet Shaked's preliminary reading of a proposed bill to toughen punishment for agricultural vandalism. 

"Many Israeli farmers suffer from the phenomenon of vandalism, which threatens their work routine and often their physical safety," Bennett declared in a post on his Facebook page. "Their fields are burned, their fences are cut, their crops are stolen, their equipment and tractors are destroyed [. . .] these are among the best people in our country, and their safety and security have been abandoned." 

Bennett elaborated that Israel's agricultural workers cultivate and protect some 5.5 million dunams (~1.36 million acres) of land, and as such "are the real guardians of the State of Israel." Bennett continued that agriculture expresses the true "ethical, social, and economic" values of Zionism, and urges its protection "at all costs." 

Bennett's statements followed reports that due to systemic ineffectiveness of Israel's police force, many farmers are turning to private security organizations which specialize in agricultural safety to ensure their own security. Bennett maintained that while these organizations do their job well, it is the police's responsibility to take agricultural vandalism seriously. 

Referring to Shaked's bill, which passed the Knesset preliminary stages, Bennett also wrote that "stricter punishment is needed because it presents a deterrent" and that it boosts public interest in "identifying the perpetrators and eliminating the problem" through legal and judicial action. He also stressed that "it is essential that police actually increase enforcement" of the law. 

The bill itself, which was filed by MK Shaked and other concerned Knesset representatives, proposes stricter consequences for trespassers on state-owned agricultural lands. Intentional entry, by a person or animal, into another person's agricultural property will be subject to six months' incarceration instead of the three months imposed today, or a fine of approximately 3000NIS (853 USD). For animal trespass, where the animal's owner has not taken proper preventative measures, the punishment will be raised to three months in prison from the current 30-day period, and also incur a fine of 3000NIS.