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Op-Ed: The Case for the Death Penalty for Terrorists in Israel

Kerry calls out Israel's own weakness. Arabs have little reason to expect that law will be enforced and crime duly punished.
Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 12:45 PM


Shock and outrage have resonated through the pro-Israel world after a thinly-veiled threat was directed at Israel by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week. As part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to strong-arm Israel into coughing up harmful concessions to the Palestinian Authority, Kerry warned that if the present negotiations fail Israel will face an “intifada” – the Arabic expression for a violent terrorist uprising.

Traditionally, it has been the tactic of the Arabs to combine the threat of violence with diplomacy. The outrage in this instance stems from the sorry sight of the United States likewise stooping to the low level of threatening the lives of innocent Israeli civilians, in the name of “peace” no less. The danger, of course, is that the U.S. has now irresponsibly provided a motive and justification for an eruption of Arab violence.

The core assumption in Secretary Kerry’s remark is that Israel lacks the self-respect and confidence to carry out justice, and shall instead willingly suffer some measure of Palestinian-Arab terrorism. Though Kerry is certainly seeking to prey upon it, this is a weakness of Israel’s own making.

A bill must immediately be filed in the Knesset to institute capital punishment. Such a bill will serve two important purposes. 1) Even the mere prospect of its passage will command respect and deter the possibility of terrorist violence against Israel; and 2) It will launch an important conversation within Israeli government and society about one of the key reasons for the State’s very existence – the protection of Jewish life.

What Secretary Kerry has helped to highlight is that among Israel’s most pressing domestic problems remains the systemic failure of justice and law enforcement in governing the Arab residents living within its jurisdiction. Israel does indeed have the ability to prosecute and punish crime.  The prohibition against its actually doing so, however, is an informal but key aspect of the “peace process” that has been translated into judicial, military and police operational culture.

Proponents of anti-Zionist, appeasement policies refer to this restraint as “the price of peace” as if there were something noble about it. The result is that the Arabs have little reason to expect that law will be enforced and crime duly punished.

The overall consequence of the deficiencies in Israel’s execution of justice and law enforcement is that there is a significant lack of deterrence, thereby proliferating crime instead. Thus, as an example, we see a strategic land grab being conducted via the construction of tens of thousands of illegal structures by the Arabs in regions throughout Israel and Jerusalem. More importantly, hardly a day goes by without some act of violence to report.

The large numbers of Arab youths who hurl rocks and firebombs demonstrate the clear understanding that Israel does not mete out punishment. This understanding is even more so evidenced by the encouraging parents and elders who see no risk in their children’s behavior. All of this has an emboldening effect. By the time they reach their teenage years many of these children are ready to commit serious acts of property damage, violence and even murder.

Nothing can better demonstrate the breakdown of justice and law enforcement in Israel than a simple glance at the expectation of an Arab terrorist who commits murder. An act of murder, or mass murder for that matter, will not be met by capital punishment. Instead, the murderer will receive multiple life sentences, a legal and moral farce suggesting he has more than one life that can be taken from him. In prison he can expect a variety of comforts and rights. While incarcerated the murderer will be glorified as a hero by his people and might even have societal institutions named in his honor if he’s killed enough Jews. His family will receive payments and subsidies, some of which comes at U.S. taxpayer expense.

Most importantly, the Arab terrorist who commits murder can expect that his release is only a matter of time, dependent simply upon the next prisoner exchange or “goodwill gesture” that will be forced upon Israel.

How can anyone who cares about Israel not be gravely concerned by such legal and moral backwardness? Such a profound failure of the system of justice and law enforcement stands in direct opposition to the value that Judaism and Zionism place upon the protection of life. Furthermore, it increases the likelihood that Israel will face an intifada and further violence. It’s time for Israel to muster the confidence to carry out justice and enforce the law, and exercise the moral clarity to institute capital punishment for crimes that deserve no less.

Neither Israel’s allies nor her enemies will respect her until she respects herself.

The writer is an attorney and Zionist activist residing in Florida.