Legislation allowing courts to sentence murderers to life without parole in “special cases” was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation Sunday.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said “the State of Israel is opening a new page in the war against terror and its moral commitment to bereaved families.
“Years of blackmail and wholesale releases will stop when this bill becomes law,” Bennett said. “Bayit Yehudi will work in the upcoming [Knesset] session to pass the law without delay.”
Seven ministers from Likud Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi voted in favor, and three Yesh Atid and Hatnua ministers opposed.
The proposed legislature aims to allow the courts to use the heavy sentence that blocks the president’s ability to pardon criminals in special cases like terrorist attacks, murder with nationalist motivations or murder of children.
Transportation and Road Safety Minister Israel Katz said the law is just and will deter terror, preventing defeatism in negotiations and, hopefully, put an end to terrorist releases.
“Murderers and terrorists need to know that they will not be freed. That is a significant deterrent for terror,” Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel said after the vote. “Most countries in the world don’t negotiate with murderers and kidnappers and that is much better than what’s happening in Israel in recent years.”
The bill was proposed by Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked and MK David Tsur (Hatnua), and cosponsored by coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), MKs Robert Ilatov (Likud Beytenu), Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi), Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi), Mordechai Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) and Yisrael Hasson (Kadima).
Ilatov pointed out that similar sentences exist in the US and that the bill, should it become law, will not discriminate by religion, ethnicity or gender of the murderer.
“The goal is to have more severe sentences without having the death penalty,” he said. “Whoever deprives the whole world [by killing a person] will pay by losing his freedom.”
The legislation is an amendment to Basic Law: President of the State, which currently says the president may pardon any criminal.
If the change becomes law, it will allow judges to use their discretion on whether a murder is a “special case” or not, meaning there is a possibility that the law may never be put to use even if it is passed.
Meretz leader Zehava Gal- On called the bill demagogic and discriminatory.
“I can understand the families of victims of terror’s [reaction] when Israel frees prisoners during negotiations. At the same time, the government needs room for diplomatic maneuvers that will allow prisoners to be freed...as part of a deal, a political move that will be a faith-building step to lead toward reconciliation and a peace treaty,” she said.
In the coalition, MK Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) spoke out against the legislation, saying it ties the government’s hands during negotiations.
“We’d all like to see murderers sit in prison until their last day, but we cannot let our anger and desire for revenge run the country,” Elharar said.
MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua) said “the bill is meant to cover up the Bayit Yehudi and the whole government’s embarrassment that they decided to free terrorists instead of briefly stopping construction in Judea and Samaria.
“It’s clear to all that this law, even if it passes, has no significance for the near future,” he said.