Likud Source: Israeli Death Penalty for Terrorists Won’t Apply to Jews

Proposed legislation would only apply to military courts, where Jewish suspects are rarely charged. Kulanu says will oppose any such legislation.

Avigdor Lieberman arriving to a coalition negotiations meeting, May 19, 2016.
Emil Salman

The death penalty for murder in a terror act that incoming Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman seeks will only apply to military courts, said a Likud source involved in the talks to bring Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party into the governing coalition.

Such a move, which Lieberman demands if his party is to join the government, would effectively exclude its application against Jews.

A senior official in Kulanu, which is a member of the coalition, said his party would oppose any form of legislation that would enable courts, military or civilian, to hand out a death sentence. 

Palestinians accused of terror offenses are prosecuted in Israeli military courts, while Jews charged with similar crimes against Palestinians are usually tried in Israeli civilian courts, noted the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Sources said the coalition talks’ focus had shifted to Lieberman’s demand for making a majority vote enough for a death sentence, instead of the consensus of all three judges today.

The coalition agreement is expected to be signed by the end of Sunday. Speaking at a meeting of Likud cabinet members Sunday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would remain foreign minister and continue to work to bring the main opposition party, Zionist Union, into the coalition.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz at the weekly cabinet meeting, May 22, 2016.
Emil Salman

On his Twitter account, Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog wrote: “At the moment of truth, everyone made his own choice. Netanyahu chose Lieberman-Bennett and we chose to fight him,” referring to Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett.

Netanyahu presumably hopes his decision will quell the tensions with cabinet members from his own Likud party who hope to win a promotion in the reshuffle.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan have each received a hint from Netanyahu that they will be appointed foreign minister, while a third cabinet member, Yuval Steinitz, also considers himself a candidate.

Sources say Tzachi Hanegbi, who recently stepped down as both chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and coalition chairman, is also a candidate in light of Netanyahu’s trust in him.

At the start of the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, Netanyahu said that even after Lieberman becomes defense minister, the government will strive to resume the peace process with the Palestinians, with the aid of regional players.

Netanyahu said he had sought to expand his coalition since it was sworn in last year, adding that the best thing for Israel is as broad a government as possible.

Zionist Union MKs are due to caucus Sunday for the first time since their talks to join the coalition broke down last week. That meeting will be closed to reporters.

The session is likely to be tense amid the clashes in recent days between Herzog, former party chief Shelly Yacimovich and MKs who opposed the coalition talks, some of whom called on Herzog to step down.

At a meeting in Kfar Sava on Saturday, Herzog said he had no plans to step down, a move he said would “provide dubious satisfaction to left-wing radicals.”