Israeli bill makes imposing death penalty on terrorists easier

JERUSALEM (JTA) – A bill that would make it easier for an Israeli military court to sentence terrorists to death passed a preliminary Knesset reading.

The legislation sponsored by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman passed 52-49 in Wednesday’s vote.

Under the measure, a simple majority of judges, two in a panel of three, would be enough to sentence a terrorist to death. The bill also bans leniency after a final death sentence has been handed down.

Currently, a military court can impose the death penalty on a convicted terrorist only if the decision of the panel of judges is unanimous. It has never been employed.

The death penalty has been used in Israel once, in 1962 against Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann.

Prior to the vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in favour of the legislation. He recalled his visit to the shiva for the Solomon family, which had three members stabbed to death in a terror attack in their home during their Shabbat dinner.

Netanyahu said members of the family who survived the attack “told me how the terrorist held a knife and slaughtered and laughed. I said there are extreme cases of people who carry out horrifying crimes who do not deserve to live. They should feel the full brunt of the law.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the legislation “moral and just.”

Joint Arab List lawmaker Ahmad Tibi asked Netanyahu whether he would support the death penalty in cases of Jewish terrorists, referring to the firebombing of the Dawabsheh family in the West Bank village of Duma.”

Netanyahu replied, “In principle, yes,” according to Ynet.

The legislation must have three readings in Knesset following the preliminary reading in order to be approved.

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