Israeli lawmakers give initial nod to death penalty for terrorists bill

Israeli lawmakers approved a preliminary bill on death penalties for terrorists.

By: World Israel News Staff

A bill which would make it easier for military courts to sentence terrorists to death passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset on Wednesday.

The bill was approved in a 52-49 vote in its preliminary reading by the Knesset.

The bill, proposed by Yisrael Beitenu Members of Knesset Robert Ilatov, Oded Forer and Yulia Malinovsky, will now be transferred to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, which will prepare it for its first reading at the Knesset plenum.

The bill would amend the current Penal Law that allows the death penalty to be handed down only via a unanimous decision by all the judges on the panel in a military court. Should the bill become law, a terrorist could be sentenced to death if two of the three judges agree to it. The bill would apply to those convicted of fatal acts of terrorism, based on the Israeli legal definition.

During the plenary debate which preceded the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the July 21 terror attack in the in the Israeli community of Halamish in Samaria, when  Palestinian terrorist Omar al-Abed stabbed three members of the Salomon family to death.

“I’ve seen some shocking things in my life, but I was shocked. And I said there are extreme cases where people commit terrible crimes and don’t deserve to live. We’re changing the law for these situations,” Netanyahu told the plenum. “Whoever butchers and laughs will not live out his days in prison but will be executed.”

Netanyahu said that the law would apply “in principal” to Jewish terrorists as well.

“This is only about political considerations,” opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp), who opposes the bill, charged.

“The political echelon needs to ask: How will this help Israeli security? Will it deter? What will it do to our Jewish brothers in Arab countries? Analyze the psychology of those who commit acts of terrorism,” Herzog said.

Responding on behalf of the government, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman mentioned that a month ago security forces apprehended a terror cell from Shechem (Nablus) which planned to kidnap soldiers or civilians and use them as bargaining chips to release terrorists.

”In all the prisoner exchange deals since the Jibril deal in 1983, the State of Israel has released 7,578 terrorists, so any additional terrorist who is in an Israeli prison gives others an incentive to kidnap,” he argued, while thanking Netanyahu for “positioning himself clearly at the side of the law’s initiators.”

‘It’s our moral obligation’

Ilatov said lawmakers have a “moral obligation to the citizens of Israel, who have been suffering from terror since the state`s inception, and even beforehand.”

“When terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons end up going free (in prisoner exchanges), I think the most moral thing is for (terrorists) to get the death penalty,” he said.

Ilatov noted that capital punishment is a legal penalty in 31 states in the United States.

“All those who claim we may lose the deterrence against the terror organizations – are those people who are sitting in jail after committing acts of terror deterred? The answer is 100 percent no, they are not deterred, and some of them become ticking bombs and return to terror,” he added.

The bill’s explanatory note states that “the fight against terrorism is the world’s greatest challenge in the 21st century, and all the more so, Israel’s greatest challenge.”

Israel has only carried out the death penalty twice since the establishment of the state in 1948. Meir Tobianski, a Jew who was accused of treason during Israel’s War of Independence, was executed by a firing squad in 1948; he was posthumously exonerated.

In 1961, an Israeli civilian court sentenced former Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann to death by hanging, and he was executed in 1962.