Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called for the perpetrator of a deadly terrorist attack in the West Bank settlement of Halamish in July to be sentenced to death, ahead of the military court's verdict handed down on Wednesday.
"Today the verdict will be handed down to the terrorist who killed three members of the Salomon family in cold blood in the settlement of Halamish," said Liberman.
"The death sentence is the only appropriate punishment for such a despicable act. I call on the judges to demonstrate courage and hand down a death sentence to this terrorist," he added. "Jewish blood will not be abandoned! There is no place for terrorists, not even in prison."
Liberman subsequently stated that he has no authority as defense minister to instruct judges how to act and was calling for the death penalty as Yisrael Beytenu leader and as an Israeli citizen.
The military court convicted 19-year-old Palestinian Omar al-Abed of three counts of intentionally causing death, equivalent to murder, and two attempts to intentionally cause death as well as incitement-related crimes and other offenses.
The sentence will be decided upon at a later date.
On July 21, 2017, al-Abed entered a home in Halamish and stabbed members of the Salomon family as they were having Friday night dinner. He killed Yosef Salomon, 70, and his children Chaya, 46, and Elad, 36. He also severely injured Yosef’s wife, Tovah.
Al-Abed was shot and neutralized by a neighbor, an off-duty soldier, identified only as Sgt. A. and his father, Shimon Maoz, who heard the attack unfolding and rushed to assist.
During interrogations al-Abed admitted to carrying out the attack because of tensions surrounding the placement of metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He had also published a Facebook post where he stated that he was expecting to die just before he left his West Bank village to carry out the attack in Halamish.
Several ministers have called for al-Abed to be sentenced to death, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett who tweeted that the military court has the authority to impose the sentence.
“The death penalty is possible at the military court. There is no need for legislation; only to ask [for it]. I call on the military prosecutor to demand the death penalty for the terrorist who murdered the Salomon family.”
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also took to Twitter in July, tweeting that, “The murderers of children and families deserve the death penalty. Such a punishment exists in the military court with a unanimous decision by the judges. This is an incident that demands the death penalty for the murderer.”
In August, the widow of Elad Salomon, Michal, called for the death penalty for al-Abed as well, saying that destroying his house was not enough.
"They can rebuild their house but mine has been destroyed forever," she said. "There should be a death penalty so these terrorists can never rebuild their home, and if not a death penalty, there should be an extreme crackdown on their terms of imprisonment, precluding them from having anything but the bare minimum."
Israeli law currently allows military courts to use the death penalty if there is a consensus of all judges presiding over the trial.
The Knesset has rejected legislation that would apply the death penalty to Palestinian terrorists several times, but right-wing lawmakers, led by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, have been calling for expanding the death penalty to apply to certain kinds of terrorists like al-Abed.
A new bill proposed by Liberman would allow a majority of judges to sentence a terrorist to death. A draft bill was agreed to by coalition leaders last week, despite opposition leaders saying it would not deter terrorists from carrying out attacks, including Shin Bet Chief Nadav Argaman who came out against the death penalty on Sunday.
The death penalty has only been invoked in Israel on Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann, who was hung in 1962.