Israeli Lawmakers Back Bill Vetoing Presidential Pardon of Murderers

Lawmakers aim to prevent government from making prisoner swaps, overtures to Palestinians.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Israel freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners to keep U.S.-sponsored peacemaking on course for a second round of talks, Gaza Strip, August 14, 2013.
Israel freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners to keep U.S.-sponsored peacemaking on course for a second round of talks, Gaza Strip, August 14, 2013.Credit: Reuters
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Lawmakers from Israel's right, left and center have expressed their support for a new bill which allows judges to veto a presidential pardon of murderers they convicted.

The bill, set to come up for a vote Sunday before the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, was prepared primarily to prevent the early release of Israeli Arab and Palestinian murderers as part of negotiations with Palestinian entities.

The bill has no retroactive effect on prisoners currently serving out their sentence, and will only apply to those convicted following the bill's becoming law.

The bill's proponents, led by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) clarified they aim to prohibit pardons in other cases as well, particularly those which made a distinct public effect. MK David Zur (Hatnua) who went against his party leader and signed the bill, said on Saturday that the bill "is meant to give, in certain cases, another step above a life sentence and below a death penalty, which doesn't currently exist."

According to him, these cases include political assassinations or such incidents like the Fogel family murders, Rose Pizam or Osherenko.

Hatnua Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, who also heads the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, said she will oppose the bill because it limits the government's leeway in diplomatic negotiations. But Zur is of a different opinion. "It has been my belief in the past and it still is today that releasing prisoners as a condition for holding negotiations is neither ethical nor productive. I think freezing construction outside the settlement blocs is better, and will benefit any future solution which will clearly include territorial compromises. Beyond that, unfortunately there will still remain many murderers who can still act as bargaining chips apart from those deemed un-pardonable."

On the opposition, MK Eitan Cabel, chairman of the Labor party faction, also voiced his support for the bill. "I've always opposed released terrorists with blood on their hands, and my change of heart for the Gilad Shalit deal still troubles me," he said.

The bill says that "the court may determine that for certain reasons to be listed, the president may not pardon or ease a sentence by reducing it or changing it." In the appendix to the bill the MKs explain their express intention is to prevent diplomatic overtures or future prisoner swaps, which according to them lead to the "absurd situation in which terrorists who used murder as part of their struggle against Israel, are released a long time before the end of their sentence."

"This poses a moral failure since it makes light of the severity of the terrorists' actions and devalues the authority of the judicial system," the bill says.

Another bill to be brought for a vote on Sunday states that life prisoners who are pardoned cannot be released until they pay the compensation ruled by the court.

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