Legislation introducing the death penalty for terrorists passed its initial Knesset vote on Wednesday.
The bill passed by a vote of 55-9. The vote was boycotted by most members of the opposition who went to join street protests against judicial reforms. But other opposition members, including the Israel Beiteinu party, supported the legislation.
According to the bill, capital punishment would be applied to someone who, “intentionally or out of indifference causes the death of an Israeli citizen when the act is carried out from a racist motive or hate to a certain public… and with the purpose of harming the State of Israel and the rebirth of the Jewish people in its homeland.”
The death penalty bill faces further legislative hurdles before becoming law.
After the vote, Israel Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Liberman said, “Even in the largest democracies in the world, it can be seen that in the USA since 2015 more than 160 death sentences have been carried out and in the second western democracy, Japan, more than 30. Therefore, as those who are in an existential war, we certainly can and must change the law.”
Reacting against the legislation, the Arab Hadash-Ta’al parliamentary faction said in a statement that the bill is “crossing a clear red line as part of Israel’s deterioration into total fascism.”
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara has voiced opposition to the death penalty, arguing that it does not lead to deterrence.
The only individual ever executed by Israel was Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi architect of the Holocaust. He was hung in 1962 and his ashes scattered at sea after he was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.
An Israeli court sentenced John Demjanuk to death in 1998 for crimes against humanity while working at different concentration camps. However, Israel’s Supreme Court overturned the sentence in 1993. Israel eventually extradited Demjanuk, who died in Germany while appealing a conviction there.