Legislation seeking to prevent the government from releasing terrorists was drastically weakened when it was prepared for a first plenum reading in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Wednesday.
The bill in question, proposed by MKs Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi) and David Tsur (Hatnua), sought to give judges the option of an additional level of punishment for “special cases” of murder – such as terrorism or killing children – which would not allow the president to pardon the murderer – even if doing so would help diplomatic negotiations.
However, since the Knesset approved in its preliminary reading a bill that would make pardoning terrorists during diplomatic negotiations no longer the president’s responsibility, the Shaked-Tsur bill was changed.
The new version of the bill still adds a new level of punishment for especially heinous murders, but it does not prevent a presidential pardon.
Only a special Parole Board committee can decide whether to reduce the murderer’s sentence. They cannot discuss doing so before he or she has been in prison for 15 years, and the sentence may not be shortened to less than 40 years.
Shaked said that she agreed to the change in order not to harm the presidency and the president’s authority to pardon prisoners as a part of separation of powers in government.
Tsur, however, said he does not like the compromise and that the original bill found a balance between the death penalty and a sentence to life in prison – which is usually, eventually, shortened.
Justice Ministry director- general Emmy Palmor said “our research shows that Israel is in a good place compared to the rest of the world in terms of the severity with which its legal system treats murder.”
The amount of time a murderer sentenced to life in prison actually spends in prison is, on average, 30 years, Palmor said, adding that in Europe, life sentences are usually 20 years long.
MK Merav Michaeli (Labor) said the law should allow for exceptions.
“We spend a lot of money on jailing and less on rehabilitating.
We need to dramatically change our investment in rehabilitating prisoners,” she said.