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Israel to Consider Reinstating Death Penalty for Terrorists

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The government will consider reinstating the death penalty for terrorists, Justice Minister Haim Zadok announced today in the Knesset. He made the announcement in reply to agenda motions by MKs Yehuda Sha’ari (Independent Liberals) and Yitzhak Tamir (Likud) demanding that the death penalty be revived. Their motions reflected mounting public pressure for capital punishment in the wake of the Maalot and Kiryat Shemona outrages.

But Zadok recommended caution. “When we deal with this question we should not be guided by feelings of rage and disgust but rather by the basic issue which is its (death penalty) possible influence on the war against terrorist organizations,” he said. The Justice Minister explained the considerations that entered into the government’s original decision to waive the death penalty for terrorists.

For one thing, he said, certainty that they will be sentenced to death could decrease the terrorists’ willingness to surrender. Carrying out the death penalty would provide the terrorist organizations with martyrs and may also encourage them to undertake additional terrorist acts to force the reversal of death penalties imposed on their comrades, Zadok said.

The issue was referred to the Knesset’s legal committee. A group of Hebrew University students met, meanwhile, with Knesset Speaker Yisrael Yeshayahu and presented him with a petition calling for renewal of the death penalty. Thousands of Israelis have signed it since it was drafted following the Munich massacre in Sept., 1972. Restoration of the death penalty has been one of the principal demands by residents of Maalot and Kiryat Shemona who demonstrated here this week.

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