Death penalty for terrorists ‘will return sanity to Israel’

Dozens of Israeli rabbis have signed a halakha (Jewish legal) ruling calling on the government to institute the death penalty for terrorists.

The letter, initiated by the Derekh Hayim organization, calls for authorities to act with an iron fist against the ongoing wave of terrorist attacks.

“In these difficult times, when Jewish blood is being spilled like water, we must repeat the obvious: Anyone who wants to harm a Jew, it is imperative to preempt him and kill him before he carries out his deed,” the letter reads, going on to site the Talmudic dictum that “he who comes to kill you, arise and kill him first.”

“It is forbidden to be negligent regarding (the Torah command) ‘Do not stand idly by your fellow’s blood,” it continues, saying those principles also apply “after the act.”

“The government must decree the death penalty for terrorist murderers,” the letter adds, stressing that any leniency towards “encourages terror.”

Implementing the death penalty would serve as a deterrent, and ensure that even if captured alive the terrorist would not be able to carry out any attacks in the future, i.e. upon his or her release from prison.

The rabbis added that taking a strong hand against terrorism would also win Israel respect internationally.

They noted that Israeli law actually already includes the option of the death penalty, meaning that far from embarking on an arduous legislative process the government simply needed to opt to use it.

Israel has only ever handed down the death penalty once, when it executed Nazi leader and one of the architects of the holocaust Adolf Eichmann in 1962. Despite having the option to use it in other cases, such as mass-murdering terrorists, Israel has observed an unofficial indefinite moratorium on the death penalty since then.

The letter was signed by dozens of rabbis including Derekh Hayim chairman Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg; former Kiryat Arba-Hevron Chief Rabbi and leading Religious-Zionist figure Rabbi Dov Lior; Temple Institute head and halakhic authority Rabbi Yisrael Ariel; Kiryat Motzkin Chief Rabbi David Drukman; AlonShvut Chief Rabbi Gidon Perel; Karnei Shomron Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Levi; Yitzhar Chief Rabbi David Dudkevich and numerous religious-Zionist roshei yeshiva (yeshiva deans).

Derekh Hayim spokesman Rabbi Yossi Pla’i explained the motivation behind the letter.

“When government policy is that there is no death penalty for terrorists, and on the contrary, we see that even terrorist murderers sit in prison in good condition and are released in (prisoner swap) deals, this is something which erodes the feeling of security” for Israel’s citizens, he said.

“As a result, it is no wonder that members of the public want to harm terrorists themselves, in the knowledge that they will not receive a fitting punishment” he added, referring to the increased incidents of incensed civilians attempting to lynch neutralized terrorists who carried out attacks.

Handing the death penalty to terrorists who harm Jews would mark a “return to sanity and justice,” he said.

The full letter, in Hebrew, can be read below: