Defense minister urges colleagues to endorse death penalty for terrorists

Ahead of security cabinet vote on bill, Liberman says there is no need to be more ‘enlightened’ than US, Japan; security establishment opposes move

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at a press conference on July 19, 2018. (Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks at a press conference on July 19, 2018. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday urged fellow ministers to approve a bill calling for the death penalty for convicted Palestinian killers of Israeli civilians and soldiers, saying there is no reason for Israel to be more enlightened than the US in the war on terror.

Ministers were scheduled to vote on the bill at a meeting of the top-level security cabinet later in the day.

“At long last the bill for death sentences for terrorists is to be decided on,” Liberman tweeted. “I am sure that my ministerial colleagues understand that we need all measures in the fight against terror.

“A terrorist who slaughters a family should not return home,” continued Liberman. “There is no reason for us to be more enlightened that the United States or Japan in the war on terror.”

Although the death penalty formally exists in Israeli law, it has only ever been used once — in 1962 in the case of Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust.

It is technically allowed in cases of high treason, as well as in certain circumstances under the military law that applies within the IDF and in the West Bank, but is not implemented.

The bill, proposed by Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party, won initial backing in a January preliminary reading in the Knesset, despite some coalition lawmakers expressing reservations over the legislation. Its progress since then has been repeatedly delayed.

The head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, Nadav Argaman, has in the past told lawmakers he opposes the death penalty for attackers. The IDF is also opposed, Army Radio reported, with the security establishment also concerned that the introduction of the move would spark unrest in the Palestinian territories.

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has also said he is against the punishment, citing objections from Shin Bet officials who said it would endanger the lives of Jews around the world who could be kidnapped and used as bargaining chips in exchange for terrorists awaiting execution.

Finally, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has reportedly come out against capital punishment, arguing that it would not serve to dissuade terrorists from carrying out attacks, as they generally commit them with the assumption that they won’t survive.

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