Government ministers on Sunday voted to advance a new bill barring the release of convicted killers sentenced to life terms in prison, a piece of legislation that would restrict Israeli options in any future negotiations with the Palestinians.
The bill allows the court to determine during sentencing that – out of special considerations – the president will not be allowed to pardon or reduce the punishment handed to the murderer.
Pardoning prisoners is one of the sole prerogatives enjoyed by the Israeli president, generally a largely symbolic position.
Bereaved families protesting prisoner's release in Jerusalem (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
In recent months the bill has picked up momentum due to strong support from bereaved families, who have actively campaigned against the release of prisoners as part of negotiations with the Palestinians.
Yossi Tzur, who lost his son in a 2003 suicide bombing on a Haifa bus, expressed his support for the legislation. He said the end of the recent nine-month negotiations was the time to settle the issue legally.
"The bereaved families have been opposed to the release of prisoners since before the Gilad Shalit exchange. We have reached the point where there are no negotiations and no planned wave of prisoner release, now is the time to settle the matter," he said.
Released prisoners arriving in Ramallah (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
The bereaved father emphasized that the state must make clear to terrorists that they will not be pardoned.
"Today terrorists murder knowing they will be released from prison. During the Shalit deal three terrorists were released who had been sentenced to 17 life sentences and were responsible for the murder of 17 people – including my son," he said. "We have a film of the terrorists boasting they will not serve their full sentence and be released early."
Tzur stressed that these types of declarations cannot be tolerated, and that, "this bill was intended to remove their motivation because they know they will be released in future deals."
But the bill does not confine itself solely to security prisoners; the legislation's language could also extend to the murder of minors and other major crimes.
It appears likely that the bill has the support of most of the Likud's ministers, as well as those from Yisrael Beiteinu. It is unclear how Yesh Atid members will vote.