One of the many problems with the effort to bring back the death penalty in Israel is that it never went away in the first place.
Israel is only a partial abolitionist, banning the death penalty for ordinary crimes in 1954 but retaining it for war crimes and offences against the state. The last execution was in 1962, when Eichmann was sent on his merry way. Capital punishment technically remains in place but a mixture of procedural rules and queasiness about its use have prevented any further trips to the gallows.
That may be about to change after a ‘death penalty for terrorists’ bill passed its first reading in the Knesset. Terrorists already risk the death penalty; the bill simply drops the requirement for the three-judge panel to be unanimous in its sentencing. The bill is the work of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu, a small right-wing outfit but a lynchpin in Benjamin Netanyahu’s fragile coalition government. Lieberman is the sort who gives rabble-rousing a bad name: he has prospered by talking tough on Palestinian terrorism and Israeli-Arab extremism. The best that can be said for his targets is that they have always been generous in supplying him material.
Feature image: Public domain by CACorrections (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation).