ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

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Ministers to consider death penalty for terrorists

Bill sponsored by opposition Yisrael Beytenu party garners support of ministers in Likud and Jewish Home

View of the Knesset plenum, June 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
View of the Knesset plenum, June 17, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A key cabinet committee is set to consider a bill that would institute a death penalty for convicted terrorists.

The bill, proposed by Yisrael Beytenu MK Sharon Gal, would make it easier for military and district courts to sentence to death those convicted of murder with nationalist motives.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which gives government support to bills being proposed in the Knesset, is slated to vote on the bill at its Sunday meeting. According to media reports and public statements from cabinet ministers, the bill already has the support of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, Culture Minister Miri Regev, Science Minister Danny Danon and Minister Ofir Akunis.

Since two members of the committee, Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin and Minorities Minister Gila Gamliel, will be out of the country Sunday, the 10-member panel is likely to see a majority in favor of the bill.

Last week, Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett voiced support for 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 on Facebook. “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, with Tourism Minister Yariv Levin among those said to be opposed.

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

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 once, with the execution of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann in 1962.

The death penalty bill was a key election promise of Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman. 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 legislate 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,” he added.

While the bill may pass the ministerial committee with ease, but even if it gains the support of Likud, it will have a tougher time passing in the Knesset, where it will be resisted by much of the opposition and some coalition lawmakers, such as in the Kulanu party.

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