Israel lawmakers to debate death penalty for Palestinian 'terrorists'

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Palestinians have warned that new death penalty will be aimed at political prisoners

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman talks to a man during a visit to a new construction site inside the Israeli Karnei Shomron settlement in the occupied West Bank (AFP)
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Tuesday 6 November 2018 10:22 UTC
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Israel's parliament will renew debate next week on a bill that would make it easier to sentence Palestinian attackers to death, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday while vowing to have it passed.

"After over three years of a stubborn struggle, the death penalty for terrorists law will finally be brought to the law committee next Wednesday (November 14), and then for its first reading in the Knesset plenum," Lieberman said on Twitter.

"We won't relent or stop until completing the mission."

The bill, which passed a preliminary vote by the full parliament in January, would ease the requirements military courts in the occupied West Bank must meet to sentence Palestinians convicted of "terrorist" crimes to death. 

As the law stands now, a panel of three military judges must unanimously approve any death penalty in military courts.

The new bill, planned by members of Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party at his behest, would change the requirement to a majority instead of unanimity.

Israel has not carried out any executions since 1962, when Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was hanged.

Israel abolished the use of capital punishment for murder in civil courts in 1954, though it can still in theory be applied for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, treason and crimes against the Jewish people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed support for the death penalty in certain cases.

A law to sentence "terrorists" to death was one of Lieberman's election promises in 2015.

Israeli elections are expected to be called in the coming months and politicians have been ramping up campaign rhetoric.

Qadura Fares, the director of the Palestinian Society Prisoner's Club, said last year that the death penalty bill was aimed at Palestinian political prisoners.

"This bill is drafted to be imposed on Palestinian prisoners only, in the Israeli military and civil courts, and it will not be extended to Israeli prisoners," the statement said.

He pledged that lawyers will "boycott" the Israeli military courts in opposition to the law and added that the bill will not allow any future prisoners exchange with Israel or the release of Palestinian prisoners.