Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed on Sunday to form a government committee to examine a bill proposing to sentence terrorists to death.
The committee will include representatives from the coalition's factions, among them Likud MK Yariv Levin.
The proposed legislation is Yisrael Beytenu's flagship bill, an election promise made during the last elections campaign. It has recently garnered support from different members of the coalition. Likud ministers Miri Regev, Ofir Akunis, Danny Danon and Ze'ev Elkin said Saturday night that they will back the legislation. Several ministers and MKs from Bayit Yehudi also expressed their support.
The Likud decided that if Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman objects to the formation of the committee, the faction's ministers will vote against it.
Yisrael Beytenu, which objects to the committee as it views it as an "attempt to bury the proposal," raised the proposal to a discussion at the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, which decided to postpone the vote in three months in order to allow the committee time to examine the legislation.
"The death penalty for terrorists has existence since 1994, and one terrorist got it, but he was released in the Shalit deal," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said at the committee.
A representative from Shaked's ministry, however, said the Justice Ministry objects to sentencing terrorists to death. "Israel as a moral country will not do to murderers what they do to their victims," the representative said.
MK Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu), who proposed the law, rejected "the prime minister's proposal to form a 'foot-dragging committee' which will, in practice, bury the legislation. This decision is another proof that this is a non-national government that doesn't operate based on the principles of the national camp. Yisrael Beytenu will raise the proposal to a vote at the Knesset this week, and I hope that until then, all of those calling themselves 'national camp' will come to their senses."
According to the current law, a death sentence requires a unanimous decision. The law applies only in a military court and it allows a major general to mitigate the punishment. The amendment to the penal code entitled "the death penalty sentence for a convicted murderer motivated by nationalism" stipulates that a death sentence can be declared by simple majority. The law would apply to any district court and the sentence would not be subject to mitigation.
Likud ministers said that they would support the proposal because of its importance, despite the fact that it was filed by an opposition party. Regev said that "terrorists are to rot in jail and in extreme cases merit the death penalty. It's no secret that I supported releasing terrorists on behalf of the captive soldier Gilad Shalit; however, I said that from the moment of Shalit's return to Israel, the policy must be clear – terrorists should not be released."
"The fight against terrorism is the world's greatest challenge in the 21st century, and all the more so, Israel's greatest challenge," states the bill's explanatory note.
"And yet there is a huge gap between the way Israel metes out punishments and the reality it faces. Releasing terrorists before their period of imprisonment is completed, including those who carried out the most heinous terrorist attacks, gives the opposite message and does not contribute to the fight against terrorism and Israel's deterrent capability. The purpose of this bill is to be a significant deterrent for perpetrators of terrorist acts, knowing that Israel's policy is becoming stricter and that it will no longer compromise regarding this type of crime. Therefore, given the reality Israel is dealing with, the death penalty is an essential deterrent."