After a stormy debate, the Knesset plenum on Wednesday approved in a preliminary reading a proposed amendment to the Penal Law – Death Penalty to a person convicted of murder in terrorist circumstances, 5727 – 2017. The bill was submitted by MKs Robert Ilatov, Oded Forer, and Yulia Malinovsky, all of them from Yisrael Beiteinu. The preliminary vote was 52 yeas and 49 nays.
Before the vote, the United Torah Judaism coalition faction demanded a postponement of the vote in the Knesset plenum, explaining that they needed to “consult the rabbis.” But everyone knew it was in order to get back at Yisrael Beiteinu, for refusing to support the Supermarkets Law, empowering the Interior Minister to prohibit most municipalities from issuing Shabbat work permits to local shops.
Eventually, the Haredim stayed away from the plenum for the vote, as did MK Benny Begin (Likud).
At the end of the vote, MK Avigdor Liberman, for this was the fulfillment of an old campaign promise, went up to Prime Minister Netanyahu and shook his hand.
Speaking before the vote, Netanyahu told the plenum: “A few weeks ago, I went to comfort the Salmon family [whose three loved ones were murdered on a Friday night in Naveh Tzuf, Samaria], and the family members who survived the terrible attack told me how the terrorist held the knife and was slaughtering and laughing.”
“I’ve seen some shocking things in my life, but this shocked me,” the PM continued. “I said that there are extreme situations where people who commit terrible crimes do not deserve to live. I said that we would change the law to fit these situations.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) responded, saying, “There is only one extreme situation, and it is Avigdor Liberman’s threat to dismantle the government. There are only political considerations here.”
“The political echelon must ask, how will this help Israel’s security?” Herzog continued. “Will it deter? What will this do to our Jewish brothers in the Arab countries?”
“We should study in depth the psychology of anyone who carries out terrorist attacks. [But] you are capitulating before Liberman because he threatens to dismantle your government,” Herzog repeated.
MK Robert Ilatov, in presenting his bill, was one of the few MKs who spoke of the death penalty from a Torah point of view, as an expression how much society values the life of the victim, that it demands the life of the killer in payment.
“This law is not only just, but a moral, for Israeli citizens who have suffered from terrorism since the establishment of the state and even earlier,” he said. “This is a moral law for the bereaved families, and certainly for the world.” Ilatov noted that “in 31 states the US has a death penalty,” adding that “in Israel, too, there’s a death penalty law, which is simply not carried out because of the attorney general’s objections.”
“It is unclear to me where the AG received this authority, when there is an explicit law that allows for the death penalty,” Ilatov continued.
“All those who claim that we can lose our deterrence against terrorist organizations [if we apply the death penalty], will those people tell me if imprisonment of terrorists is a deterrence? Are those people sitting in jail for terrorism deterred from taking up terrorism after they are released? I would say that 100% of them are not deterred, and become a ticking bomb as soon as they go free.”