(photo credit: REUTERS)
Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman told lawmakers on Sunday he opposes Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s proposal to allow judges to sentence terrorists to death.
According to Channel 10 news, Argaman made the comments during a closeddoor session with lawmakers in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, after announcing that the agency had thwarted over 400 terrorist attacks in 2017, including 13 suicide attacks and 8 kidnappings, as well as 1,100 potential lone-wolf attacks.
Israeli law currently allows military courts to use the death penalty if there is a consensus of all the judges presiding over the trial. Right-wing lawmakers, led by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, have called for expanding that use of capital punishment to include certain kinds of terrorists.
The death penalty has only been invoked once in Israel, against Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann, who was hanged in 1962.
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 the law would not deter terrorists from carrying out attacks.
“Liberman’s bill is political and not good for security, because if there was a security need for it, security forces would have demanded it, but they don’t want it,” said Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni.
Speaking to lawmakers during the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee
meeting, Argaman warned that “the [period of] quiet we are experiencing is misleading; Hamas is hard at work trying to execute terrorist attacks.”
He further noted that in 2017, 54 attacks were successfully carried out, in comparison with 108 successful attacks in 2016.
In 2016, the Shin Bet stopped 344 major attacks, meaning the total number of thwarted and successful attacks was similar for 2016 and 2017, but the security agency succeeded in thwarting more of them in 2017.
The major improvement was seen in the 400 potential lone-wolf attacks prevented in 2016, compared to 1,100 such potential attacks in 2017.
Those numbers, however, are the subject of much debate.
Law-enforcement and intelligence officials in several countries have told The Jerusalem Post that while Israel is a pioneer in discerning and stopping potential lone-wolf attackers before they launch an attack, the line between busting people for social media posts that are free speech and those that are dangerous incitement is a fine one.
Some of those officials refuse to use such statistics to boost their credibility when reporting to their own legislative bodies, viewing the category of “potential attacker” as being too amorphous.
Sometimes the Shin Bet thwarts potential attackers by arresting them, but sometimes it counters them on social media or has a serious sit-down talk and merely issues a warning.
Warning that the relative calm is misleading, “certainly following the Trump statement,” Argaman praised the work carried of the Shin Bet’s cyber unit and expressed confidence in the abilities of the Israeli security services to withstand challenges in the future.
Referring to the negotiations between Hamas and Fatah, Argaman said, “Only time will tell if this process will be successful and what it will mean for us.”
Lahav Harkov and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.