MKs argued over the ramifications of a bill limiting presidential pardons for terrorists and murderers in the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee Monday.
The legislation in question would allow judges to sentence murderers and terrorists to life in prison without the option of a pardon from the president. It will only apply to those who are sentenced in the future.
The bill faced criticism from the opposition, which said it would limit the government’s ability to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians.
“This isn’t a political proposal,” Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked, who drafted the bill with MK David Tsur (Hatnua), said.
“Our bill says that in a country that doesn’t have the death penalty, there should be an additional level of punishment instead of the death penalty,” she added.
Shaked also pointed out that Tsur, a former district commander in the Israel Police who was unable to attend Monday’s committee meeting, had to deal with horrible cases of murder in which whole families were killed, and that they did not only have Palestinian terrorists in mind when they wrote the bill.
Still, Shaked said, the bill does not define “special cases” of murder, because all murder is extreme, and she and Tsur leave that to the committee.
MK Jamal Zahalke (Balad) said that regardless of whom the bill applies to, it violates Basic Law: Human Dignity and Freedom and that life in prison is a form of torture.
According to Zahalke, as long as there are Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, the “occupation” will not be over. Therefore, an option of pardons for humanitarian reasons must always be left open.
“A peace agreement is the most humanitarian situation,” Zahalke said. “It’ll save lives. To say [Palestinian] prisoners will remain even after a peace treaty is insanity!” Shaked said: “Whoever slits an infant’s throat should not be pardoned, even if there is peace in the Middle East and the whole world!” MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) said the bill is meant to cover up the government’s faults.
“I understand why this was proposed.
The government cheapened prisoner releases, which used to only be used to release captives.
Now it’s a negotiating tool. This government needs to restrain itself,” she said.
The president’s legal adviser Dana Tzuk said that the bill is very problematic and that no other country limits pardons.
“There needs to be a backup option that can be used to give pardons in unexpected situations and special cases,” Tzuk said.
Shaked asked Tzuk: “How many murderers died in prison? How many times did the president decide not to pardon someone [when the government asked him to do so]?” Tzuk responded that most life sentences are shortened.
The meeting ended without a vote and the committee will continue discussing the legislation before it is brought to a first reading.
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