PM to back law that would nix president’s ability to commute terrorists’ sentences

The proposed legislation is aimed at preventing any future large scale pardoning of convicted Palestinian terrorists for political agenda.


Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu threw his support Thursday behind a bill that would enable courts to convict terrorists to life in prison without any chance of a presidential commutation of their sentences, in a move apparently connected to the recent Hamas-Fatah unity pact.

Binyamin Netanyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset. – Photo: GPO

The security cabinet on Thursday decided to bring the proposed law to the government on Sunday, where it will be backed by Likud-Beytenu and Bayit Yehudi ministers. Discussion of the bill came at a meeting of the Security Cabinet called to discuss the Shamgar Committee report on prisoner releases.

The law, first proposed by Bayit Yehudi MK Ayelet Shaked, is aimed at preventing the large scale release of convicted Palestinian terrorists in the future. The law would allow courts to stipulate in sentencing a clause saying that the President will not – as is the case today – have the powers to commute the sentences.

Some 78 Palestinian terrorists were set free in three batches since last August as part of a framework deal that led to eight months of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Israel refused to release a final batch of 26 terrorists when it appeared that the talks would not be extended past their original nine month deadline. Each prisoner exchanged sparked heated debate inside the country as to the morality and wisdom of releasing terrorists with “blood on their hands.”

The Shamgar Committee was established by Ehud Barak when he was defense minister in July 2008, after the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were returned to Israel in exchange for terrorist Samir Kuntar, four Hezbollah fighters and the bodies of nearly 200 Lebanese and Palestinians.

The recommendations of the panel, headed by former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, have never been formally released. Nevertheless, the committee is believed to have recommended that Israel avoid in the future large scale swaps for abducted soldiers, like the one carried out in October 2011 in which Gilad Shalit was exchanged for 1.027 Palestinian prisoners.

The committee is also believed to have recommended that the government not appoint special mediators to conduct negotiations on its behalf, and instead set up special unit to deal with such matters.


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