Israel passes initial vote approving death penalty against terror offenders

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  March 1, 2023

Preliminary reading passes by 55 votes to nine, as lawmakers accused of exclusively subjecting Palestinians to ‘most extreme’ human rights violations.

An Israeli bill that will legalize the death penalty against those charged with terrorism offences passed a preliminary hearing in the Knesset on Wednesday. 

The bill was approved by 55 votes to nine, with a majority of opposition lawmakers led by former Prime Minister Yair Lapid absent from the vote in protest. 

According to the legislation, a person who “causes the death of an Israeli citizen when the act is carried out from a racist motive… with the purpose of harming the State of Israel and the rebirth of the Jewish people in its homeland,” should face the death penalty. 

Adalah, a human rights and legal centre for Palestinian citizens of Israel, condemned the bill for exclusively targeting Palestinians. 

“Advancing legislation designed to bring about the most extreme form of human rights violations – the death penalty, directed exclusively at Palestinians, demonstrates once again how members of Knesset, from both the opposition and the coalition alike, are working to establish two separate legal systems based on race,” Adalah said in a statement on Wednesday. 

It added that the bill was immoral and “contrary to Israel’s basic laws”. 

Hadash-Ta’al, a Palestinian faction within Israel’s parliament, described the proposed law as “part of Israel’s slide into total fascism”. 

“Today it is the Palestinians, tomorrow it will be the protestors on the streets. [National Security Minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir will be easy on the trigger when it comes to determining who is a terrorist.”

‘Legal impediment’

On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that the legislation had been initially approved by the government’s ministerial committee for legislation and advanced to the preliminary reading stage. 

That announcement came on the same day that at least one Palestinian was killed and nearly 400 were wounded in settler attacks on the occupied West Bank town of Huwwara and other nearby towns and villages.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers, flanked by soldiers, attacked Palestinian areas near Nablus following a shooting that killed two Israelis in Huwwara earlier in the day. 

“On this difficult day when two Israeli citizens were murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack, there is nothing more symbolic than passing a death penalty law for terrorists,” Netanyahu said on Sunday. 

The legislation, which was submitted by lawmaker Limor Son Har-Melech from the Jewish Power party, was advanced despite attorney general Gali Baharav-Miara stating that there was a “legal impediment” to voting on the law. 

She opposed the laws on the grounds that it went against Israel’s declarations on use of the death penalty in international forums, according to Ynet news. 

Israel has only used the death penalty twice in 75 years, one of which was to execute Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann in 1962.