Israeli lawmakers gave the go-ahead early Tuesday to a bill that would sharpen sentencing guidelines against the worst terror convicts, removing the possibility of parole after most of their sentences have been served.
The bill is aimed at keeping inmates with murder or attempted murder convictions in terrorism-related cases from being able to apply for early release after two-thirds of their sentence has been served, a right granted to other prisoners.
The measure, which passed 57-12 in its first reading in the Knesset plenum, must still pass two more full Knesset votes before being passed.
The bill was sponsored by Oded Forer of the Yisrael Beytenu party, which recently moved to the opposition, but has continued to push a separate bill that would make it easier for Israeli authorities to seek the death penalty in some terror cases.
Culture Minister Miri Regev left the plenum and refused to vote for the measure, according to Hebrew media reports, apparently in protest of Yisrael Beytenu’s lack of support for a bill she has pushed giving her ministry control over freezing state funding for arts groups deemed anti-Israel.
Regev has fumed since the coalition put her bill on the back burner last month after the Kulanu party said it would not force members to support the measure and Yisrael Beytenu said it would condition its support on the coalition backing the death penalty bill.
Yisrael Beytenu left the coalition last month when party leader Avigdor Liberman quit his post as defense minister to protest the government’s policies in Gaza, which he called “weak” and a “capitulation to terror.” He has accused the coalition of refusing to advance a death penalty for attackers in retribution.
The issue of early release for terror convicts came up in September after a report that the Israeli military could begin considering parole requests for those serving time under military court convictions in the West Bank.
The possibility of the policy shift came after a security prisoner serving 30 years on a murder conviction sued in Israeli court by claiming he was being discriminated against since prisoners convicted in Israel’s civil court system, which operates in Israel proper, have the possibility of parole.
The bill’s explanatory notes call the measure a deterrent against terror attacks.