A controversial bill to stymie prisoner releases for those serving life sentences, effectively removing the option to use prisoners as a bargaining chip with the Palestinians, passed its first hurdle in the Knesset Wednesday.
Thirty-six lawmakers voted in favor the proposed legislation and 20 opposed it in a preliminary reading. The bill will now head to committee before advancing to a full Knesset vote at a later date.
If approved by the Knesset, the measure, sponsored by MKs Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), Yariv Levin (Likud), David Tzur (Hatnua) and others, would prevent leaders from being able to offer prisoner releases in exchange for political concessions in talks with Palestinians, although it would only apply to a minority of inmates.
“In the state of Israel today the judges’ rulings are not worth the paper they’re written on,” Shaked said Wednesday. “In cases of particularly heinous murders, the government should respect the decisions handed down by judges in the state of Israel.”
Levin praised the bill’s passage, which he said will create “a new moral standard” in Israel, and will create “deterrence against the planners and perpetrators of terrorist attacks. ”
The measure would only apply to those sentenced in the future and not those currently serving time in jail.
The release of convicted murderers became one of the most divisive issues within Netanyahu’s ruling coalition over the past year after he agreed to release over 100 prisoners at the outset of the most recent round of peace talks with the Palestinians.
The Ministerial Committee for Legislation originally approved the bill on May 11 in a decision that was promptly appealed by Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri.
“The proposal seeks to allow the court to completely tie the government’s hands” and compromises its authority with regard to political considerations, he argued. Peri’s appeal was ultimately rejected on June 8.