Contrary to Natural Justice

The lenient policy of the legislature and the courts is sending the signal that committing murder in Israel is not so terrible - one can go on living pretty well in jail and even get out and start a good life at 40.

While the people of Israel celebrated Passover with family meals and excursions into nature, for the Steiermans and the Cohens, the holiday was a time of deep agitation. They could not come to terms with the marriage, on the eve of the holiday, of Sigalit Heimovich, who murdered Asaf Steierman, and Shahar Cohen, the murderer of Alfred Cohen. The two met in the "A Star Is Born in Prison" contest - because, according to our twisted norms, murderers have to be provided with entertainment. The prison authorities organized the marriage ceremony and then gave the happy couple a room in which to spend the first night together.

It's an especially pleasant room, equipped with a double bed, a television set, a shower and toilet. Fine curtains hang over the windows. From now on, whenever they want to be alone, they will submit a request to the prison commander and he will approve it, because we are, you know, talking about basic rights and we, who are good and compassionate people, are very strict about rights. The parents of Asaf Steierman and Alfred Cohen are undoubtedly wondering what kind of justice this is.

Shahar Cohen served in an engineering battalion in the Jordan Valley. On the night of the murder, he was on the telephone in the operations room. Alfred Cohen entered the room and urged him to end the conversation quickly, because he wanted to make a call too. Shahar refused. The argument heated up and they shoved each other - "nothing out of the ordinary," one of the female soldiers who was there subsequently testified.

But Shahar thought otherwise. He went to his room and returned with his rifle, and emptied half the magazine into Alfred. He made no attempt to speak to him, did not give him the right to say the last word, and did not ask him to apologize. As Alfred lay in a pool of blood on the floor, Shahar fired another volley of bullets into him at a range of half a meter, to confirm the killing.

Sigalit Heimovich was sitting on the balcony of her home in Kfar Sava with two of her friends. She thought someone in the street was needling them and said, "Let's kill him." The three went downstairs carrying penknives. Just then, Asaf Steierman happened to walk by. They stabbed him in cold blood, and when he pleaded for his life, Heimovich brought over a big stone and smashed his skull. After the murder, she went on with her life as though nothing had happened; and it was only four years later, and largely by chance, that the crime was solved.

Heimovich was sentenced to 24 years in prison; Cohen got a life sentence, but the merciful president, Moshe Katsav, has already reduced his sentence to 30 years. They should be out in another 12 years (after the usual deduction of a third of the sentence), at the age of 40, with their entire lives ahead of them. By then, they will be able to have a few children, which the state will subsidize and raise, as well as go on leave once in a while to spend time with their kids, go to a movie or a play, and maybe have dinner at a restaurant.

Another murderer, Yigal Amir, managed to get married "through an envoy," despite the objections of the security services and the top ranks of the Prisons Service - and all this in a country in which 300,000 honest and irreproachable people cannot get married because of discriminatory religious laws. Amir even received "the right to father a child" when the State Prosecutor's Office allowed him to transfer semen to his wife in order "to set up a family in Israel."

So the person who murdered a prime minister in cold blood and did critical damage to Israeli democracy will soon be a happy father. And then the pressure will mount to let him attend the circumcision ceremony (or a ceremony for a daughter), followed by special leaves for birthdays. And pressure to release him will mount too - because how is it possible to raise a son without the presence of an educating father image?

Natural justice says that these three murderers should be happy that there is no death penalty for murder in the Israeli legal system; but they deserve nothing more - neither a "Star Is Born" contest, nor a relationship between a man and a woman. Murderers of this sort should be left to rot in prison until their last day. They should not be given leaves from prison or any other benefits. They should be given a life sentence without the right to be released and with hard labor - so they will not enjoy themselves in prison but only suffer.

The lenient policy of the legislature and the courts is sending the signal that committing murder in Israel is not so terrible. One can go on living pretty well in jail and even get out and start a good life at 40. This policy does not deter; it is not just; and it encourages the next murderer.