In the petition, organized by the Derech Chaim movement, they called on the government to take a firm hand against Israel's enemies, explaining that the rule "Haba lehorgecha hashkem lehorgo" (when someone tries to kill you, rise up and kill him first) is valid in retrospect too.
"Our holy Torah teaches us that punishing the murderer is the justice and right morals," the rabbis wrote. They quoted the Bible verse "Whoever sheds human blood, by a human being will his own blood be shed" (Genesis 9:6), and Maimonides remark in Hilchot Sanhedrin: "The court must not have mercy on the killer, saying that a person has already been killed and there is no point in killing the other."
The document was signed by 29 community rabbis, yeshiva heads and others right-wing religious leaders, including Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, president of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, and the yeshiva's head, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, one of the authors of "The King's Torah." The most senior signatory is Rabbi Dov Lior, one of the leaders of the Religious Zionism movement.
'Restore sanity and justice'
"When in a war against a cruel enemy, we must take a firm hand against it," the rabbis added, supporting their demand with Rashi's commentary on the Torah: "Don't pity them because they won't pity you."
According to the rabbis, from the moment God gave the people of Israel diplomatic and military force, they must choose "a firm leadership which the world's nations will also respect… and not in a confused manner which sows cowardliness and desperation, as some of the authorities and media outlets are doing."
They further explained that "lenient conduct encourages terror. The wild terrorists' intention is to harm the Jewish people in general, and the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel in particular - and they should therefore be treated as an enemy which must be killed, rather than taking pity on these cruel people.
"Punishing the terrorists with a firm hand deters the enemy, ruins its hopes and prevents future attacks. It is the government's responsibility to root out this murderous disease. Even today, the State's laws allow it to impose a death sentence on terrorists, and we are demanding that the authorities fulfill their duty and carry it out in practice."
Rabbi Yossi Palai, one of the petition's initiators, said: "When there is a policy of no death sentence for terrorists, and even the opposite, we see terrorist murderers sitting in prison in good conditions and getting released in deals. This is something which undermines the sense of security. We should not be surprised, therefore, when the public wants to hurt terrorists itself, knowing that they won't be getting a proper punishment. Giving terrorists who hurt Jews the death sentence will restore sanity and justice."