How a Minister Called for On-the-spot Death Sentence for Murderers

Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch seems to have forgotten the rules of engagement, which apply even in the case of terrorists.

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The aftermath of the Jerusalem car attack, November 5, 2014.
The aftermath of the Jerusalem car attack, November 5, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who is in charge of enforcing the law, has a far-reaching proposal for dealing with terrorists.

“A terrorist who attacks civilians should be sentenced to death,” the minister ruled following the terror attack in Jerusalem on Wednesday. He added that he wished all such events would end that way.

The minister wasn’t expressing just his own heart’s desire; presumably his words reflect the feelings of large segments of the Israeli public. But even if his words were fired by the passion of the moment, they may be construed by police and Border Police officers as an instruction and a worthy norm, whose implementation would win them official praise.

More terror attacks are expected in Jerusalem — there’s no doubt about that. It’s also clear to every security official and civilian that one has the right to defend one’s life when it is endangered. But the rules of engagement stipulate explicitly in what circumstances weapons may be used.

According to the initial testimonies, it is doubtful whether the attack in Jerusalem justified killing the perpetrator, after a police car slammed into him and he was thrown onto the road.

The public security minister must remember that in Israel even despicable murderers are not sentenced to death and that the penalty is based on a proper legal process. Aharonovitch’s proposal-cum-instruction authorizes police officers on the ground and armed civilians to judge, rule and carry out a death sentence. This is unacceptable and an infringement on the rule of law.

Minister Aharonovitch must recant this dangerous statement and warn the police and Border Police forces against the reckless use of their license to shoot. The prime minister and defense minister must also make their position clear, lest it be understood that Aharonovitch represents the government’s policy.

In the current, ever so explosive situation the government and defense officials must make every effort to calm down passions. “Free-for-all” shooting runs counter to this objective and could make things even worse.

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