The heads of the coalition parties on Sunday approved the demand of Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman to support a death penalty bill for terrorists bill, as agreed in Netanyahu’s coalition agreement with Yisrael Beiteinu, Ha’aretz reported. The bill is expected to be submitted for approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and later by the Knesset in one to two weeks.
Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), Liberman, and Yisrael Beiteinu chairman MK Robert Ilatov, were charged with producing the bill on the basis of Yisrael Beiteinu’s proposal, with language acceptable to all the coalition factions. Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), who represents the leftwing corner of the coalition, has already given his faction’s consent to the bill at a meeting of coalition leaders, according to Ha’aretz.
Military law, under which all terrorists are being tried today, already allows for sentencing to death a person convicted of murder as part of a terrorist activity, but requires a unanimous vote of the military three-judge panel. The revised law being promoted allows the same military panels to impose the death penalty on terrorists even by a simple majority of the judges.
Another clause in the Yisrael Beiteinu original bill, which is not part of the coalition agreement, allows civilian courts to impose the death penalty on terrorists they convict of murder.
The bill further stipulates that once a death sentence has been confirmed through the appeals process, it remains final and cannot be commuted through political or bureaucratic channels. However, the same bill does not compel the military prosecution to demand the death penalty for terrorists. As things stand nowadays, the military prosecution as a matter of course disregards the option of a death sentence.
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp), who is a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, attacked the move, saying, “The death penalty will invite international pressure that Israel will not be able to withstand at this time – all this for the survival of the [Netanyahu] coalition.”
MK Shai also cited the common objection to executing Arab terrorists, namely that “the death penalty does not deter, it creates heroes of terrorism. Therefore, in the civilized world to which we belong, we impose life sentences and refrain from the death penalty.”
The common objection to sentencing terrorists to death is rooted in the fact that it would not deter new terrorists from joining the cause, and may even encourage them. As in the Amnesty International report Does The Death Penalty Deter Crime? – Getting The Facts Straight, which argues: “Those people willing to commit large-scale acts of violence aimed at inflicting terror upon a society do so knowing that they could come to serious physical harm and therefore show little or no regard for their own safety. Executions of such people often provide welcome publicity for the groups they belong to and create martyrs around which further support may be rallied for their cause. Yet many countries have attempted to control terrorism by
using the death penalty.”
But there are other purposes rather than deterrence to executing convicted terrorists, such as meeting the public’s demand for clear justice and the need to avenge the victims of terrorism. On that count, the death penalty is a far more effective remedy than allowing a terrorist murderer to linger in prison at the taxpayer’s expense, until he or she are released as part of a prisoners’ swap deal forged by government.