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New defense minister's death penalty demand would put Israelis at risk

The demand by incoming Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman to impose the death penalty for terrorism convictions could destroy Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation and ignite a new intifada.
Avigdor Lieberman, head of far-right Yisrael Beitenu party, (C) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R) arrive to sign a coalition deal to broaden the government's parliamentary majority, at the Knesset, the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem May 25, 2016. REUTERS/Ammar Awad - RTSFTGZ
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One of the terms set by Israel's incoming minister of defense, Avigdor Liberman, as a precondition for joining Benjamin Netanyahu's government was that Israel impose the death penalty for people convicted of terrorism. Liberman's party, Yisrael Beitenu, raised this as a banner issue before the March 2015 elections and again, even more fervently, following the recent wave of terrorism. Its argument, which has no basis whatsoever in fact, is that such a measure is necessary to deter attacks.

Sharon Gal, a former Yisrael Beitenu Knesset member who resigned after serving only six months, actually proposed legislation on this issue. His bill failed to pass in July 2015 due to Netanyahu’s adamant opposition to it. The prime minister put all his weight into opposing the law. Among the reasons he cited was the defense establishment’s argument that imposing the death penalty could aggravate the already sensitive relationship with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and lead to an unwelcome escalation in tensions. Netanyahu has since withdrawn his opposition. In fact, he retracted it at the start of the recent coalition negotiations with Liberman.

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