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Israel lawmakers to debate death penalty for Palestinian ‘terrorists’

By AFP - Nov 06,2018 - Last updated at Nov 06,2018

Palestinian protesters carry national flags as they gather during a demonstration calling for an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza, on a beach in Beit Lahiya near the maritime border with Israel, on Monday (AFP photo)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israel’s parliament will renew debate next week on a bill that would make it easier to sentence Palestinian attackers to death, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday while vowing to have it passed.

“After over three years of a stubborn struggle, the death penalty for terrorists law will finally be brought to the law committee next Wednesday [November 14], and then for its first reading in the Knesset plenum,” Lieberman said on Twitter.

“We won’t relent or stop until completing the mission.”

The bill, which passed a preliminary vote by the full parliament in January, would ease the requirements military courts in the occupied West Bank must meet to sentence Palestinians convicted of “terrorist” crimes to death. 

As the law stands now, a panel of three military judges must unanimously approve any death penalty in military courts.

The new bill, planned by members of Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party at his behest, would change the requirement to a majority instead of unanimity.

Israel has not carried out any executions since 1962, when Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was hanged.

Israel abolished the use of capital punishment for murder in civil courts in 1954, though it can still in theory be applied for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, treason and crimes against the Jewish people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed support for the death penalty in certain cases.

But a senior member of Netanyahu’s party said on Tuesday that he would object to the bill since the Israeli security establishment opposed it.

“I won’t support imposing the death penalty before there’s a serious debate and decision in the government and security Cabinet,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz wrote on Twitter.

“According to the IDF [Israel Defence Forces], Shin Bet [internal security service] and all the security establishment not only would [the death penalty] not help the fight against terror, it would cause great damage,” he said.

A law to sentence what Palestinian assailants to death was one of Lieberman’s election promises in 2015, and government support for it was a condition for Yisrael Beitenu joining Netanyahu’s coalition. 

Israeli elections are expected to be called in the coming months and politicians have been ramping up campaign rhetoric.

The Palestinian government on Tuesday said the bill was “a public invitation to commit murder, and execution, and carry out massacres against our Palestinian people”. 

“This is a clear breach of laws, international and humanitarian,” a statement from the Palestinian government said. 

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