Israel must introduce the death penalty for terrorists

The release of terrorists in return for Schalit begs the simple question of why they were still alive in the first place and not executed by the State after committing the respective atrocities.

Palestinians await prisoners release R 465 (photo credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS)
Palestinians await prisoners release R 465
No Jew, and indeed, no decent person in whom there beats a human heart, could fail to be moved to tears by the reunion of Gilad Schalit and his family in Israel. Looking pale from years of being held in a cell and deprived of sunlight, and extremely shy due to years of being denied virtually all human contact, Israel welcomed home a hero for whom they had traded one thousand murderers, terrorists, and criminals committed to its destruction to keep true to its promise – namely, that no soldier is ever forgotten or left behind.
As Hamas and the Palestinians ululated and celebrated the return to their society of killers who had taken the lives of so many innocent men, women and children guilty of no other sin than going about their daily business, Israel cheered at the restoration of one of its sons who was kidnapped while trying to protect these innocent lives. The conflicting values systems of the two opposing camps – one dedicated to the life and the other, tragically, having been overtaken for decades by a culture of death – could not have been draw in more stark terms than watching our Palestinian brothers and sisters welcoming terrorists home with parades while Israel re-embraced a soldier whose first words to the world media, after having been treated like a caged animal for five years, were his hopes for lasting peace. It also goes without saying that when Israel is prepared to trade a thousand predators for one lonely soldier it is because of Israel’s commitment to the infinite value of human life.
Still, the question remains of whether it was worth it. There have been many arguments both in favor of the deal and against it, and as such I will attempt to expound upon a different aspect of the story; one that would obviate the need to trade killers for captured soldiers in the future. It is high time that Israel finally instituted a death penalty for terrorists. In the US, Timothy McVeigh, who murdered 160 people in Oklahoma in April 1995, was dispatched after a fair trial and an appeal with no public outcry whatsoever. No man who takes that many lives may be permitted to live. So why would Israel lock up the most rancid, heartless, and cold-blooded mass murderers in its jails just so that they can serve as a lure for Israelis to be kidnapped in order that these killers be paroled?
The list of terrorists now released by Israel (who were also fed three warm meals a day in Israeli prisons for years), includes Ibrahim Jundiya, who was serving multiple life sentences for carrying out an attack that killed 12 people and wounded 50. Also included in the list is Marwan Barghouti, who was sentenced to five life sentences for murder. Barghouti is the infamous Palestinian political hero who is largely recognized as the leader of the first and second Intifadas that left thousands of Israelis murdered and severely wounded. Barghouti also orchestrated the Sea Food Market attack in Tel Aviv, killing 3 Israelis. Then there is Amina Mona, an accomplice to the murder of 16-year-old Ofir Rachum. She lured him over the internet to a meeting where terrorists were waiting to kill him. Jihad Yaghmur and Yehia Sanwar were involved in the abduction and murder of Nachshon Wachsman which in turn led to the murder of Matkal Unit member Nir Poraz, head of the rescue mission sent to save him. I am an acquaintance of Nachshon’s mother and can only imagine her pain at seeing her son’s killers celebrated as returning conquerors.
Also released are Ahlam Tamimi, the 20-year-old student accomplice to the Sbarros restaurant bombing in 2001 that left fifteen dead and 130 wounded, Aziz Salha who was famously photographed displaying his bloodied hands for the mob crowd below after beating an Israeli soldier to death, and Nasser Yataima, who planned the 2002 Passover massacre that killed 30 and wounded 140.
The question this partial list begs is this: why were they still alive in the first place? Why were they not given fair and impartial trials and the right to appeal, and if found guilty of murder—and especially mass murder—executed by the State?
Some will argue that this will only invite the Arab terror organizations to execute the Israeli prisoners they hold. It is therefore worth recalling that in most cases this is what the Palestinian terror organizations choose to do anyway, and that Gilad Schalit is the first living soldier to be returned to Israel in more than a quarter century. In July 2008, Israel arranged another prisoner exchange in order to obtain the release of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev—captured two years earlier and sparking Israel’s invasion of Lebanon—only to discover tragically they had been dead all along.
Others still, and Europeans in particular, will argue that the death penalty is cruel and Israel is more humane for banning it. I disagree. While here in the US there is a ongoing debate relating to the death penalty over individual acts of murder, there should be no such debate whatsoever when it comes to terrorism and premeditated mass murders. It is also worth recalling that with absolutely no compunction in mandating state-sponsored executions of mass murderers, Europeans powers like Britain and France participated in the execution of Nazi leaders in the Nuremberg trials of 1945-1946. Indeed, I argue that it is cruel and unusual punishment against the families of Israel’s terror victims to leave these terrorists alive in Israeli prisons with the families not knowing day to day if they will even serve out their sentences should another Israeli soldier fall into captive hands. The families deserve closure.
Those who adhere to the argument that "should Israel put its terrorists to death there will be nothing left to bargain with in cases where an Israeli soldier or citizen becomes captive," are forgetting that there are always other options. Other deals can be made - be it with money, international pressure, or the exchange of Arab prisoners who are not guilty of terrorism.
Let's not forget that Israel is not entirely unfamiliar with the concept of taking the life of a mass murderer. In a Ramla prison on May 31 1962 at midnight, the Jewish State put to death the architect of the Holocaust itself and one truly abominable soul, Adolph Eichmann. Eichmann's body was then cremated with his ashes polluting the Mediterranean a day later beyond Israel’s territorial waters.
And the last words of one of the most wicked monsters of all time? “I die believing in God.” Let’s ensure that others like him—whose crimes likewise make a mockery of God—meet the same end.
The writer has just published “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself” (Wiley) and in December will publish “Kosher Jesus” (Gefen). He is in the midst of creating the Global Institute for Values Education (GIVE). Follow him on his website and on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.