Cabinet Again Delays Discussion on Death Penalty for Terrorist Killers

The Cabinet decided today to again postpone discussion on introducing the death penalty for terrorist murderers, instead saying it will use all existing legal procedures to combat the new wave of Arab terrorism in Israel and the administered territories.

Last Monday, the Cabinet also decided not to debate the issue, and instead announced the appointment of a seven-minister committee headed by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin to study tougher penalties and preventive measures against terrorism.

According to a communique issued at the conclusion of the weekly Cabinet session today, there exists sufficient operational and punitive measures to secure law and order in the territories. These include administrative arrests and deportation of those who incite anti-Israel violence and others who endanger the security of the state.

The Cabinet also decided to expand prison facilities in the administered territories. The State Prosecutor’s office notified the government that it would do its utmost to speed up the legal process in cases that required deportation.

It was not expected that the Cabinet would reach a clear-cut decision to impose the death penalty on terrorist murderers. Instead, it seemed the government was more anxious to appease public opinion, much angered by the recent murders of Israeli citizens. There remains strong public support for the death penalty in Israel, according to recent opinion polls.

Rather than change the present law — introducing the death penalty by new legislation — the Cabinet decided to pass the entire issue of capital punishment to the ministerial legislation committee which would then pass its recommendations on to the Cabinet plenary.

The legal situation remained virtually unchanged, since Premier Shimon Peres, Rabin, and the intelligence and security services are opposed to a change which would require mandatory capital punishment for terrorists. It has been noted that the death penalty is on the statute books for terrorism, among other crimes, and the military courts are technically at liberty to impose it.

Rabin briefed the Cabinet today on measures taken to clamp down on terrorism. These included the administrative detention of Ziad Abu-Ein, one of the 1,150 terrorists released last May in the prisoner exchange, and the closure of the A-Najah University in Nablus for a period of two months. Anti-Israel leaflets were confiscated from the university last week. (See related story, p.2.)

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