Will death penalty become the law in Israel?

Death penalty co-sponsor says government members should support it because “there is no coalition or opposition when it comes to the security of the state.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Two Opposition MKs are bringing a bill requiring the death penalty for terrorists to a vote in the Knesset plenum Wednesday and are urging coalition members to support it.

The bill states that any person who causes the death of an Israeli citizen for racist motives, out of a desire to harm the State of Israel and the restoration of the Jewish people to their homeland, is liable to be put to death via the electric chair.

Another clause, stating that there would be no way to lighten such a sentence, was inserted specifically to prevent the possibility of including such terrorists in any future prisoner swap.

Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir and May Golan of the Likud cosponsored the amendment to Israel’s penal code, tabling the bill for initial discussion in the Knesset last December.  

It then went to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation for preparation for its initial reading in the plenum, which is the next stage of the legislative process.

Hebrew news site 0404 reported Monday that the committee voted to postpone discussion of the bill for six months.

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This was unacceptable to Ben-Gvir, who called the amendment “a moral, logical, order of the day,” especially in light of the spate of terrorist attacks that have killed 19 Israelis and injured dozens in the last two months.

His party is calling on all colleagues in the Opposition to support the bill. Since it knows there is no chance that the Arab Joint List would vote in favor, Otzma Yehudit began a social media campaign Monday targeting coalition members.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Gidon Sa’ar, and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Minister of Housing and Construction Ze’ev Elkin all appear in a poster asking for their vote, which states: “You promised to pass the Death Penalty to Terrorists Law.”

Then, borrowing a phrase that they and other right-wingers in the government have used in recent attempts to pass other laws with the aid of the Opposition, it says, “There is no Coalition or Opposition when it comes to the security of the state.”

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu may also be put on the spot, as the party has advocated such a bill for years. In January 2018, their version even passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset but then went nowhere.

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Opponents included members of their coalition, various senior security and intelligence personnel, and the attorney-general at the time, Avichai Mandelblit.

Mandelblit said it would not deter terrorists because they anyway assume they won’t survive an attack they commit, while Shabak officials thought it would spur kidnappings of Jews anywhere in the world, to be used as trade bait for those awaiting execution.

Ben-Gvir disagreed with these assessments, saying Monday that his formulation of the bill would “reduce the motivation to carry out terrorist attacks, but will also prevent dreams of abduction deals.”

It is “appropriate to enact such a punishment,” he added, particularly in light of the good conditions that terrorists receive in prison and “in the face of the wave of terror on our streets.”

“There is no other way to deal with this issue,” he concluded. “What is good for the United States is good for us as well.”