Netanyahu Tries Burying Bill Calling for Death Penalty for Terrorists

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Sharon Gal at the Knesset, March 30, 2015.Credit: Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday ordered Likud ministers to oppose a bill calling for the death penalty for terrorists. The prime minister issued his order just an hour before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation was meant to discuss the bill.

In addition, Netanyahu ordered the establishment of a governmental team, headed by Minister Yariv Levin, to further examine the matter. The creation of such a committee would essentially bury the initiative and postpone its discussion for three months.

MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beiteinu), who submitted the bill and who was authorized to decide how to proceed, said he opposed the establishment of such a committee and demanded that the bill be brought before the ministerial committee as planned. "Let's see who is in the real nationalist camp and who is not," he said.

Four Likud ministers had been expected to vote in favor of the bill: Ze'ev Elkin, Danny Danon, Miri Regev and Ophir Akunis. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) has also voiced her support.

A Haaretz examination found that the bill was expected to win a majority approval, but even if it were to be approved, it would not likely be advanced. Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein was expected to prohibit the Knesset from bringing it to the plenum until the bill’s legality has been thoroughly examined.

According to academic research, stiffer sentences in general, and the death sentence in particular, are no more effective in deterring criminals than existing punishment, particularly when the offenders are ideologically motivated and prepared to die, as is the case with terrorists.

In addition, the bill is not in line with current international norms regarding the death penalty, and goes against a recent worldwide trend of eliminating it. In over two-thirds of countries, the death penalty has been effectively nullified. The only Western country that still frequently issues the death penalty is the United States, and seven states there have abolished the death penalty over the last decade.

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