Liberman to advance bill setting death penalty for terrorists
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Liberman to advance bill setting death penalty for terrorists

Defense minister to submit legislation aimed at deterring Palestinian attackers though similar measures have been rejected by Knesset in past

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (center) walks before IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (4th left) as they visit the site of a terror attack in the settlement of Halamish, July 22, 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense via Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (center) walks before IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (4th left) as they visit the site of a terror attack in the settlement of Halamish, July 22, 2017. (Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense via Flash90)

Israeli political leaders on Sunday agreed to submit a draft bill to parliament enabling capital punishment for terrorists, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu party said in a statement.

Although the statement’s wording was not explicit, the bill is aimed at Palestinian terrorists, in line with Liberman’s past pledges.

“Today the death penalty bill for terrorists has finally been approved by the coalition leaders’ forum,” the Hebrew-language announcement said, referring to the heads of the six political parties which make up the governing coalition.

“The legislation should be very simple and very clear — a terrorist who comes to kill innocent civilians will be sentenced to death,” it said.

The statement quoted Liberman as saying that if passed into law, the bill would be a powerful deterrent and a counterweight to Palestinian assailants’ hopes that after a spell in jail, they could be freed in a political deal or prisoner exchange.

In the most recent such deal, in 2011, Israel released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held captive in the Gaza Strip for five years.

“We must not allow terrorists to know that after a murder they have committed, they will sit in prison, enjoy (comfortable) conditions, and may be released in the future,” Liberman wrote.

The statement did not set a date for the bill to be put before parliament.

Liberman’s party has long advocated introducing the death penalty for terrorists. The issue was one of its key campaign promises in the 2015 elections.

While the proposed legislation has previously failed to garner sufficient support, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu voiced approval for the measure.

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)

Following a terror attack in July in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, in which a Palestinian stabbed to death three family members of the Salomon family as they celebrated the birth of a grandson in their home, Netanyahu said he supported the death penalty for the terrorist, saying it was a fitting punishment for a “base murderer.”

It would need to pass four readings before becoming law, and could then risk being struck down by the Supreme Court.

The Knesset has several times rejected legislation that would apply the death penalty to Palestinian terrorists, including in Netanyahu governments.

Israeli law carries a death penalty for crimes against humanity and treason, but was last used when Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was convicted in 1961 and hanged a year later.

Marissa Newman and Alexander Fulbright contributed to this report.

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