Not for the first time, the nation of Israel is debating the merits of sentencing vicious murderers to death. But it is the first time since the mid-1990s that military prosecutors are considering requesting the death sentence for a terrorist.
In this case, the IDF is expected to request capital punishment for the two Arabs who are charged with murdering Rabbi Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children in their beds in the Samaria town of Itamar. The terrorists repeatedly stabbed and slashed the throats of a 3-month-old baby, a 3-year-old boy and his 11-year-old brother, and their parents a few hours after the start of the Jewish Sabbath.
Hakim and Amjad Awak of the nearby village of Awarta confessed to the gruesome murders under interrogation by Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) investigators. They were quoted as saying that killing a baby and her family didn't bother them as they were killing Jews and that had they known about the other sleeping children, they would have murdered them as well. Last week, their remand was extended by a military court.
Calls for Death Penalty
In March, a number of Knesset members called for the death penalty for the murderers as well.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) and Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) both said death would be the only penalty possible for such a crime. “The state must take a new tack with terrorists,” Hotovely said.
Deputy Minister Ayoub Kara vowed in March to introduce a bill to allow the death penalty in cases of first-degree murder of children following the massacre.
Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom also called for the death penalty to be imposed on the murders. “The terrorists … should be put to death,” Shalom told participants at the opening of a conference in Eilat.
One-third of Palestinian Authority Arabs expressed support for the brutal massacre, according to the findings of a poll conducted by the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University, and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.
Not a Simple Process
Israeli civilian law allows the death penalty only for Nazi criminals, and the only time it ever has been implemented was in the case of Adolf Eichmann.
Military courts have the authority to impose a death sentence on terrorists in Judea and Samaria, which are administered under military law, but this has never happened.
In order to impose a death penalty, there are a number of steps that are required:
- incriminating evidence must be presented at the trial, even if the defendants have confessed;
- the verdict must be unanimous among the panel of judges;
- those justices hearing the case must hold the rank of lieutenant-colonel, or higher;
- once decided, the sentence must be reviewed by a five-judge appellate panel – regardless of whether the convict seeks appeal; and
- if upheld, it is taken through another review by the Judea and Samaria Military Commander – who must consider commuting the sentence
By contrast, in the Palestinian Authority the death penalty is meted out to those who sell land to Israel, Israelis or Jews.
PA Arabs who are convicted of "collaborating" with Israel, even on fighting terrorists, are also sentenced to death.