Over 70% of Jewish Israelis support death penalty for terrorists — poll
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Over 70% of Jewish Israelis support death penalty for terrorists — poll

Following brutal attack, vast majority of public backs calls by prominent ministers to implement capital punishment

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara console relatives of the three members of the Salomon family who were killed in a terror attack in Halamish on July 22, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara console relatives of the three members of the Salomon family who were killed in a terror attack in Halamish on July 22, 2017. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

A vast majority of Jewish Israelis supports recent calls made by high profile politicians for implementing the death penalty for terrorists, according to a poll released Wednesday.

In Israel, the death penalty is applicable only in limited circumstances, and has only been carried out once in a civilian court, against Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Final Solution, in 1962.

(In 1948, an IDF court martial executed officer Meir Tobianski on a treason conviction, though he was later cleared.)

In the wake of a brutal terrorist attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish last month in which three members of a family were stabbed to death, a number of prominent ministers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed their belief that Israeli military courts should seek the death penalty for the Palestinian attacker.

The latest monthly Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University Peace Index poll found that nearly 70 percent of Jewish Israelis agreed with them.

Asked if they “support or oppose the execution of Palestinians found guilty of murdering Israeli civilians for nationalist reasons,” 25.8% of respondents said they “moderately” back the move and 44% expressed “strong” support. Only 24% expressed opposition.

When asked if they would back the move in the event of an attack on an Israeli soldier as opposed to a civilian, respondents gave similar answers, with 66% expressing support compared to 28% against.

The survey was conducted on July 25-27 by the Midgam Research Institute and sampled 500 Jewish and 100 Arab-Israeli respondents representing the adult population of Israel. It has a margin of error of 4.1%, the IDI said.

However, an IDI spokesperson said Arabs were not polled regarding the death penalty due to sensitivities surrounding the question.

Yosef Salomon, 70, and his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, seen at a recent family celebration. They were stabbed to death on July 21, 2017 in a terrorist attack at Halamish (courtesy)
Yosef Salomon, 70, and his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, seen at a recent family celebration. They were stabbed to death on July 21, 2017 in a terrorist attack at Halamish (courtesy)

Visiting bereaved relatives, Netanyahu said last week that he supports the death penalty for the terrorist who killed the three members of the Salomon family in the July 21 attack.

“The death penalty for terrorists –- it’s time to implement it in severe cases,” Netanyahu said in a conversation with family members of the victims, a video of which was posted on the prime minister’s Twitter account.

“It’s anchored in the law. You need the judges to rule unanimously on it, but if you want to know the government’s position and my position as prime minister –- in a case like this, of a base murderer like this -– he should be executed. He should simply not smile anymore.”

Nineteen-year-old Omar al-Abed, from a nearby West Bank village, burst in to the Salomon family’s house in the West Bank settlement of Halamish armed with a large knife and stabbed to death Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya Salomon, 46, and son Elad Salomon, 36. Yosef’s wife Tova, 68, was seriously hurt. The family was celebrating the birth of a grandson.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center at the site of a terror attack in the settlement of Halamish, where three Israelis were murdered and one seriously injured by a Palestinian in a stabbing attack. July 22, 2017. (Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, center at the site of a terror attack in the settlement of Halamish, where three Israelis were murdered and one seriously injured by a Palestinian in a stabbing attack. July 22, 2017. (Hermoni/Ministry of Defense)

During the attack, Abed was shot and injured by an off-duty Israeli soldier who lives nearby. He was discharged from an Israeli hospital a day later and remains in custody awaiting trial.

The prime minister’s call for the death penalty came after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz expressed similar sentiments following the attack.

The Knesset has several times rejected legislation that would apply the death penalty to Palestinian terrorists.

The poll also found that 79% of Israelis surveyed said they think that the punishments handed out by Israeli courts to Palestinian terrorists were “too light.”

That number is up from 70% when the same question was asked during a 2015 IDI poll published amid an spate of terror attacks across the country.

Conversely, 63% of Israel-Arab respondents said the punishments were “too heavy,” up from 60% in 2015.

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