Former Shin Bet head opposes death penalty for terrorists

'Even today, we can sentence a terrorist to death. Endless discussions will lead to kidnappings,' asserts ex security chief Yoram Cohen.

Ido Ben Porat ,

Yoram Cohen
Yoram Cohen
Flash 90

Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yoram Cohen spoke on Thursday morning about the law allowing death penalty for terrorists.

The law was approved in a preliminary reading on Wednesday by a majority of 52 to 49. If it passes its second and third readings, the law will allow army courts to sentence terrorists found guilty of murder to death with only a simple majority. Under current law, the death penalty may only be imposed by unanimous decision.

In an interview with Army Radio, Cohen said, "I think that we need to understand this law from the families' perspective of justice and perhaps some degree of deterrence. If we look at the larger picture, the damage this law causes is greater than its small benefit."

"Our issue is practical, not legal. Even today, we can sentence a terrorist to death, and even when we do, the punishment is usually swapped for another punishment. Even with today's law the Attorney General will continue not to recommend the death sentence, because it's not practical. Endlessly discussing this will cause various organizations to carry out kidnappings."

Cohen also said that during his tenure as Shin Bet head, the issue of whether or not to punish terrorists with death was never discussed.

"The Shin Bet head has a professional influence, and the Prime Minister does not have to accept the Shin Bet head's stance, but this topic was never discussed," he explained. "Yes, we did discuss exiling terrorists' families to Gaza during a period of difficult terror attacks, but you need to find a wave of terror attacks in order to justify deterrence. That's not what's happening now."

He also said that Shin Bet did not advise attaching a security detail to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's sons Avner and Yair.

"During my time, our opinion was that it is not necessary to secure Netanyahu's sons on a regular basis," he said. "This opinion was not accepted."

"There are a lot of recommendations which are not accepted. For example, they did not accept my recommendation to outlaw the Islamic Movement in Israel, but the Cabinet did decide to carry out another process, locally, and outlaw the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

"A committee headed by a minister decides who to attach a private security detail to, after examining all the issues involved in securing persons, families, and ministers who are not secured. Shin Bet explains its stance, and then a decision is made and submitted to the Prime Minister for approval."