Hours after the Knesset advanced Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s bill that would allow judges to impose the death penalty on convicted terrorists, six-year-old footage emerged of the minister calling the measure “vengeful” and contrary to Jewish values.
Channel 10 news on Wednesday published a short video clip from its archive showing Liberman in 2011, when he was still foreign minister, denouncing initiatives to impose the death penalty for Palestinian terrorists on two separate occasions.
While paying a condolence visit following a particularly brutal attack on the Fogel family in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, Liberman was asked by a reporter from the TV station if he agreed with calls for the Palestinian assailants to be executed.
“I really don’t agree, I think that as a nation — and also in the Jewish tradition — that taking vengeance is not the best ideology to follow,” he responded.
In a separate interview several weeks later, Liberman can again be seen telling Channel 10 he believes the measure to be unwise.
“I don’t think that in the midst of this storm of emotions we should even be talking about the death penalty,” he says, referring to the public shock and outrage that followed the attack.
On Wednesday, the Knesset in a preliminary vote advanced the bill proposed by Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party calling for the death penalty for convicted Palestinian killers of Israeli civilians and soldiers.
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The legislation cleared its initial reading with 52 lawmakers in favor and 49 opposed, after a stormy debate and a nail-biting vote, with the coalition’s majority uncertain until the very end.
Presenting his party’s bill, Liberman brushed off criticism by Israel’s security establishment, which has argued that capital punishment won’t deter future terror attacks.
“This rationale is hard to understand, but what can you do? It’s probably part of the intellectual stagnation we’ve been fighting for several years,” he said.
“Every terrorist who is in Israeli prison serves as an incentive to others to abduct [Israelis],” he added, referring to the practice of lopsided prisoner swaps between Israel and the Palestinians.
Last week, the head of the Shin Bet internal security service, Nadav Argaman, told lawmakers he opposed the death penalty for attackers.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has also 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.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.