Israel's Netanyahu backs death penalty bill for Palestinians

Published 05.11.2018 20:14

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given the go-ahead for a controversial bill that allows the imposition of the death penalty for Palestinians involved in attacks against Israelis.

Speaking in a meeting with coalition party heads on Sunday, Netanyahu said there was nothing preventing the bill from being advanced in the Knesset (Israel's parliament), according to The Times of Israel newspaper. He said opposition from Israel's internal security service Shin Bet and Israeli army should not prevent lawmakers from advancing the motion.

The legislation has been heavily endorsed by Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's hard-line defense minister, and was part of an earlier coalition agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. The agreement brought Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party into Israel's coalition government.

The controversial bill was approved by the Knesset in the first reading in January. Israeli military courts – which handle cases involving Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – already have the power to issue the death sentence, although it has never been implemented. The only case of an execution in Israel was carried out against convicted Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1962.

Last year, Netanyahu voiced his support for applying the death penalty to those he described as "terrorists with blood on their hands." Because of Israel's dual legal system, which generally tries Israelis in civilian courts and Palestinians in military courts (where the death penalty would be introduced), Israelis would generally not face execution for killing Palestinians. Currently, a death penalty can only be imposed if a panel of three military judges passes the penalty unanimously. If the bill is approved, a majority verdict would suffice. According to official Palestinian figures, roughly 6,400 Palestinians are currently being held in prisons and detention facilities throughout Israel, including scores of women and hundreds of minors. According to the report, Israel has detained 516 women since 2015, of whom 90 women have been arrested since the beginning of this year. Israel has arrested 10,000 Palestinian women since the 1967 Middle East war, the report also noted.

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