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Jewish Home backs death penalty for terrorists

Party leader Bennett says bill to execute murderers convicted on terror charges is ‘moral and right’

Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during the funeral of Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld at Kochav HaShahar settlement in the West Bank,  July 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during the funeral of Malachy Moshe Rosenfeld at Kochav HaShahar settlement in the West Bank, July 1, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett on Wednesday voiced support for a bill that would impose the death penalty on terrorists convicted on murder charges.

The bill, proposed by Yisrael Beytenu Knesset freshman Sharon Gal, was a plank in the Orthodox-nationalist party’s platform leading up to the March elections. The bill will be brought to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday.

Bennett wrote on his Facebook page that the Jewish Home party’s Knesset members will support the bill.

“A murderous terrorist, such as the murderers of the Fogel family [in the West Bank settlement of Itamar in 2011], needs to know that he will end his life like he cuts down [the lives of others],” Bennett said. “It’s moral and it’s right.”

While the bill tentatively has the support of Jewish Home’s eight seats, and Yisrael Beytenu’s six, it remains unclear whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, with its 30 lawmakers in the Knesset, will get behind the measure. According to Haaretz, Likud officials were still debating whether to support the bill.

The bill proposes that someone convicted of murder on terrorist charges would be sentenced to death by an Israeli civilian court. Meanwhile, anyone convicted of such charges in the West Bank, which is under Israeli military control, would receive a similar sentence from a military court. It would also amend the existing law to allow a basic majority of judges to hand someone a death sentence, rather than requiring a unanimous decision.

In theory, capital punishment exists in Israel — for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, treason and crimes against the Jewish people — but it has only been exercised with the execution of Adolf Eichman in 1962. Right-wing politicians have indicated support in principle for the death penalty for terrorists; a law that would establish a minimum punishment for a crime as loosely defined as “terrorism” would likely be struck down by the Supreme Court.

During the election campaign, Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman repeatedly called for the death penalty for terrorists. During one stump speech, Liberman said that Israeli Arabs who support the state “should receive everything [in terms of rights]; those against us, it cannot be helped, we must lift up an ax and behead them — otherwise we will not survive here.”

Gal, the lawmaker who proposed the bill, said that the party had made a promise to voters, “and we’re determined to make it happen.”

“We must change the reality and eradicate terrorism,” he said. “Death sentences will strengthen Israel’s deterrence — it’s moral and ethical to legalize it in order to save the lives of our citizens. It has broad support among the people — it’s clear to everyone that it’s a law that must pass.”

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