On Joining Israel's Governing Coalition, Lieberman Will Seek Death Penalty for Terrorists

The Yisrael Beiteinu chairman withdraws his demand to advance legislation on matters of religion and state in order not to confront ultra-Orthodox parties.

Former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Olivier Fitoussi

Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman’s legislative demands Wednesday boiled down to advance a law imposing the death penalty on terrorists.

The law enjoys support among Likud and Habayit Hayehudi ministers, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a brake on the bill so far, ordering Likud ministers to oppose it in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. Last July, the committee decided to establish a governmental team to come up with an agreed upon formula for the bill. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who heads the committee, opposes the bill.

A new version was never drawn up, leading to it being buried in practice. Lieberman twice brought his own version to a vote in the plenary in opposition to Netanyahu’s stance, in an attempt to embarrass Likud and Habayit Hayehudi ministers, who were forced to oppose it or to be absent from the vote, and the bill was voted down.

The bill on the death penalty for terrorists is meant to make it easier for military courts to hand down the death penalty and to carry it out. One of the bill’s clauses would empower the court, in contrast to the current version of the military court law, to hand down a death penalty sentence in cases where only a majority of judges rather the entire panel of judges supports such a sentence.

During coalition negotiations last year, Lieberman demanded that party colleague MK Orli Levi-Abekasis be made head of the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee. He is likely to renew this demand in current negotiations.

Lieberman stressed at a Wednesday press conference that he has withdrawn his demand to advance legislation on matters of religion and state in order not to get into a confrontation with the ultra-Orthodox parties. A source in Likud confirmed that dropping these proposals from the agenda was one of the conditions that the Likud set for Lieberman to join the coalition.

Thus, Lieberman is expected to compromise on advancing the bill for civil unions (which does not include same-sex marriages) and restoring reforms in conversion and military conscription to the previous version as approved during the previous Knesset.