Bennett backs death penalty for Jewish terrorists

Education minister also stands by use of detention without trial, albeit ‘with great caution,’ for terror suspects

Naftali Bennett, July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Naftali Bennett, July 20, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that he supports equal punishment for Jewish and Arab terrorists, including house demolitions and the death penalty.

Bennett, who leads the right-wing Jewish Home party, answered in the affirmative when asked by the radio station Galey Israel whether Jewish terrorists should receive the death penalty.

“If there will be a trend… and again, there still needs to be an asterisk because I haven’t yet seen the evidence, but on the assumption that we will see a trend, then we need to employ equivalent tools [for punishing Jewish and Arab terrorists],” he added.

His comments came in the wake of two hate attacks in late July that saw 16-year-old Shira Banki stabbed to death at the Jerusalem Gay Price Parade by an ultra-Orthodox man, and Palestinian toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha burned to death in Duma village in the West Bank when arsonists, thought to be Jewish terrorists, firebombed his family home. The toddler’s father, Saad Dawabsha, died of his wounds Saturday, and his mother and brother are still hospitalized in critical condition.

Bennett also said that he stands behind the policy of incarceration without trial — known as administrative detention — for Jewish terror suspects, which Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon approved last week.

“Yes, I support it with a heavy heart, but support it with a balance between the individual’s rights and freedom and the safeguarding of Israel’s security and the preventing of these incidents,” Bennett said.

“I said and I reiterate that it is right to use administrative detentions sparingly and with great caution,” he continued.

Incarceration without trial is a controversial step taken when there is not enough evidence against a suspect to justify a criminal trial. Administrative detention is temporary in nature, but may be renewed repeatedly by the defense minister in six-month increments.

In response to the Duma attack, Bennett said that while he abhorred violence in any form and was repulsed and appalled by the actions of Jewish terrorists, he would not allow the events of recent days to sully the image of the West Bank settler population as a whole.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, from Bennett’s Jewish Home, on Friday expressed similar support for the death penalty for terrorists, specifying that she saw the Duma attack as “an act of terrorism in every respect.”

Last month, the Knesset rejected a bill proposed by the right-wing opposition party Yisrael Beytenu that would have enabled judges to more easily sentence terrorists to death.

The bill proposed that convicted terrorists could be sentenced to death with a simple majority of judges, rather than the unanimous decision required under current law.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered lawmakers from his Likud party to oppose the bill, saying it required further examination from a legal perspective.

Bennett had previously voiced his party’s support for the bill, although during the Knesset vote only Yisrael Beytenu members voted to pass it.

Even though capital punishment is technically legal in Israel, it has only been practiced once, in 1962, when high-ranking Nazi SS officer Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death for his role in orchestrating the Holocaust.

Times of Israel staff and JTA contributed to this report.

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