Cabinet Set to Vote on Bill to Stymie Terrorist Pardons

Bill would let judge veto the granting of pardons, making it difficult for governments to release terrorists in prisoner exchange deals.

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Israel Prison Service buses carrying security prisoners.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

The cabinet is expected to decide Sunday whether to approve a bill that would let judges veto the granting of pardons to terrorists, making it difficult for governments to release them in prisoner-exchange deals.

The bill’s promoters – MKs Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) and David Tsur (Hatnuah) – assume the government will approve its submission to the Knesset, after a majority of cabinet ministers from Likud, Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi expressed their support. Cabinet ministers from Yesh Atid and Hatnuah are expected to vote against the proposed legislation. The cabinet’s support ensures an automatic majority when the bill comes before the Knesset.

Another bill likely to be revived for a repeat vote Sunday is one that approves surrogacy for same-sex couples. Its promotion was blocked by an appeal filed by Habayit Hayehudi. Both bills will be brought to the cabinet meeting after a compromise was reached between Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi. Both parties had waged a “battle of appeals,” blocking progress on seven new bills after the cabinet had approved them.

Habayit Hayehudi will now remove its objections to four laws tabled by Yesh Atid, which will, in turn, allow the passage of a bill forbidding discrimination against settlers in the territories. Filing such appeals is a mechanism for disposing of unwanted legislation, since, in his terms in office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has resurrected very few bills for subsequent discussion.

“It’s too early to celebrate,” said one MK who was involved in reaching the compromise. “Habayit Hayehudi members obey their rabbis, who may cause them to break the agreement we reached. We’ll only know when the bills come before the Knesset plenary session. Habayit Hayehudi has veto rights on any bills pertaining to religious issues. We can only hope.”

The struggle between the two parties started when Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) decided to block a bill, proposed by Yesh Atid, that would allow surrogacy for same-sex couples, since it “raised issues of values and morality, questioning what a family in Israel should look like.”

Ariel warned that the law would create a market of “women renting out their wombs.” This would mainly be used by women from low socioeconomic backgrounds who needed the money, he argued. Currently, only heterosexual couples are approved for surrogacy, while others must go abroad.

The bill was approved for submission to the Knesset a few weeks ago, with the support of seven ministers from Likud, Yesh Atid and Hatnuah. Ministers from Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi opposed it. Ariel criticized the bill, saying that “not everyone is the same. Not everything constitutes a family, despite what the Health Minister [Yael German] says.”

Pensioner Affairs Minister Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) also voted against changing the present surrogacy law. “It’s a dangerous bill that will harm heterosexual couples,” he claimed, “since homosexual couples composed of two men will have more money for the procedure, since they earn more.” Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar (Likud), who supports the new bill, said it is merely an extension of current legislation.

Following the appeal, Yesh Atid blocked bills proposed by Habayit Hayehudi, proposing limitations on granting of pardons and discrimination against settlers. Ministers Jacob Perry and German filed the appeals. With the compromise reached, these bills are now expected to move forward.

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