Knesset Discussion on Limiting Pardons for Terrorists Stalls

MKs meet in a bid to impede the president's ability to pardon security prisoners convicted of murder.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Palestinian prisoners at Israel's Megiddo Prison.
Palestinian prisoners at the Megiddo Prison.Credit: Itzik Ben-Malki
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Legislators hoped Monday to speed up the passage of a bill that would deny certain murderers the right to be considered for a pardon, but the proceedings stalled over whether only terrorists should be denied this right.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee met in a special session Monday to discuss the bill, which is aimed in part at preventing the release of convicted terrorists in prisoner exchanges with the Palestinians.

The request to narrow the bill’s scope came from Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, who only wanted security prisoners to be denied consideration for a presidential pardon.

The bill was sponsored by MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi), but the right-wing legislator did not want her draft to be watered down. She wants the legislation to apply to both terrorists and those convicted of other heinous crimes.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed the bill last week in what he called a key step in fighting Hamas. The bill passed its preliminary reading and is being prepared for the first of three more Knesset votes before it would become law.

Michal Tzuk, the president’s legal adviser, criticized the bill, saying it limits the scope of presidential pardons in a way unlike anywhere else in the world. She said she was unaware of a country that totally barred pardons in specific cases.

Shaked asked for information on the extent to which the president accepts advice when considering pardons. She also asked for data on the number of cases over the past 10 years in which the president refused to grant pardons despite recommendations from the Justice Ministry to do so.

MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash) said he feared the bill could prove an obstacle to an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank if such an agreement with the Palestinians included the release of security prisoners.

In the run-up to Monday’s meeting, MK David Tsur of the centrist Hatnuah party went against his party leader, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, and supported the bill. “It is meant to provide a step above a life sentence and below the death penalty, which does not currently exist,” he said.

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