PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Legislation to revoke the option of a shortened prison sentence for terrorists passed a first reading in the Knesset on Monday night, despite tensions between the coalition and Yisrael Beytenu.
The bill, which merged proposals by Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer and Likud MK Anat Berko, would prevent terrorists from being able to have their sentences shortened by one-third, similar to prisoners who are guilty of other offenses.
Berko said that when it comes to terrorists, deterrence is the priority: “The time has come to…amend [the Law to Fight Terror] in a way that determines that the rights of criminals to rehabilitation should not be given to security prisoners, meaning terrorists.”
The bill almost became a source of the feud between Yisrael Beytenu and the coalition since the former left the government nearly a month ago, leaving the coalition with a one-seat majority.
Coalition chairman David Amsalem (Likud) offered Yisrael Beytenu a deal, by which the coalition would support the aforementioned bill and a proposal by the party to make it easier for military courts to sentence terrorists to death. In exchange, Yisrael Beytenu would support the “Cultural Loyalty bill
,” allowing the government to revoke funding from works that incite to terrorism, the “Gideon Sa’ar bill
,” requiring the president to appoint a party leader as prime minister, and legislation which will allow ministers to appoint their own legal advisers. Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman publicly refused the package, because of the Sa’ar bill which he called “totally personal.”
The Sa’ar bill has been promoted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused former senior Likud minister Sa’ar of conspiring with Rivlin to be appointed the next prime minister. Both denied the charges.
On Sunday, Netanyahu said that he will not condition his support for other legislation on votes for the Sa’ar bill. The coalition stood behind that, and the bill – canceling shortened sentences for terrorists – passed a first reading 57-17.
One coalition member who was disappointed by the development was Culture Minister Miri Regev, who left the room before the vote.
Yisrael Beytenu faction chairman Robert Ilatov accused Regev of “abandoning the plenum like she is abandoning all citizens of Israel. [She] proved that she has no principles other than keeping her seat and her job. Just as she enthusiastically was the spokesperson of the [Gaza] disengagement [as IDF Spokeswoman], she also has no problem to leave during such an important and principled vote for the Israeli public.”
Regev said she walked out of the plenum because Liberman said he would vote against her “Cultural Loyalty Bill,” which did not go to a vote as planned in recent weeks. However, she said she would not vote against the Yisrael Beytenu bill, because she thinks it is important and does not seek to obstruct it.
“It’s unfortunate that the coalition is promoting opposition bills, including those from Liberman, when at the same time Liberman is acting to block significant and important bills from the coalition, including…cultural loyalty,” she said. “It cannot be that Liberman can say he’ll vote against [the bill] and receive gifts from the coalition.”