Lieberman’s Coalition Deal Makes It Easier to Obtain Death Penalty for Terror

The incoming defense minister agrees to oppose the so-called Israel Hayom bill, which aims to curb the free distribution of the pro-Netanyahu, Adelson-owned daily.

Avigdor Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu after signing their coalition agreement, Jerusalem, May 25, 2016.
Emil Salman

The coalition agreement by Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party makes it easier for Israel to implement one of the right-wing party’s main demands: the death penalty for murder in a terror attack.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party signed a coalition agreement with Yisrael Beiteinu in which Lieberman becomes defense minister.

The agreement does not mention the death penalty but states that in section 165a of the West Bank's security provisions, a sentence will be removed: “And the sentence will be imposed unanimously.”

Lieberman has sought a majority vote in military courts for the death penalty, instead of a consensus of all three judges.

Under the agreement, the defense budget remains unchanged and Lieberman pledges to advance the reforms agreed to by his predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon, whom Netanyahu removed in order to appoint Lieberman and expand his  strength to 66 from 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset.

In the coalition agreement, Yisrael Beiteinu’s Sofa Landver will remain immigrant absorption minister and a Yisrael Beiteinu MK will be appointed deputy Knesset speaker.

Also, a Yisrael Beiteinu MK will receive a seat on the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee. In addition, a special immigrant absorption cabinet will be established and headed by a Yisrael Beiteinu member.

Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry will allocate 1.4 billion shekels ($363 million) in stages over four years to increase the income of elderly people in need without conditioning it on their origin. A key demand by Moldova-born Lieberman has been to improve pension conditions for Soviet immigrants.

According to the agreement, efforts will be made to increase the 1.4 billion shekels in the future. In addition, 150 million shekels will be allocated to expand public housing.

One section apparently refers to MK Orly Levi-Abekasis, who is leaving Yisrael Beiteinu after criticizing Lieberman for not doing enough for social issues in the coalition agreement.

According to this section, “the Yisrael Beiteinu chairman commits to remove from his faction an MK who regularly violates coalition discipline and votes against the government's views.”

In the agreement, Lieberman and Netanyahu also commit to act to change the Basic Law on the Government to allow the appointment of more than one deputy minister in every ministry.

Lieberman has already promised to vote against legislation on matters of religion and state that is unacceptable to the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties. Yisrael Beiteinu MKs will have to vote against such legislation, not just abstain or absent themselves.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin will head a new group that will try to forge agreements among the coalition partners on legislation regarding religion and state. All coalition parties will have the right to veto such legislation except for bills that were agreed on in the coalition deals signed a year ago.

Lieberman agreed to support a long list of issues agreed on a year ago. For example, he will now have to oppose the so-called Israel Hayom Law, which aims to slow circulation of a newspaper owned by U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson a Netanyahu ally.

He will also have to back all other initiatives on the media that are supported by Netanyahu, who is also communications minister.

Lieberman has also agreed to support a Basic Law that makes it harder for the High Court of Justice to rule that a law passed by the Knesset is unconstitutional.