Coalition Crisis? UTJ May Not Support Liberman’s Death Penalty Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -
Yisrael Beytenu leader and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. (Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman angrily stormed out of a coalition meeting Wednesday, when several ministers and MKs raised objections to the Death Penalty Bill that his Yisrael Beytenu party is sponsoring. After the meeting, United Torah Judaism said that its MKs would not vote for the bill if it comes up for a vote next Monday, and asked that the vote be delayed so it could consult on the matter with Gedolei Yisrael. The bill was scheduled to come up for its first Knesset vote Wednesday, and as support for the law is part of UTJ’s coalition agreement with the Likud, the party will be in violation of the agreement if it abstains or votes against it.

The law, which Liberman has been promoting for months, would allow military courts to impose the death penalty on terrorists by a vote of two out of three judges, instead of the current requirement of the unanimous votes of all three judges on a military tribunal. But sources in both UTJ and Shas have said that they needed to consult with Gedolei Yisrael on the appropriateness of supporting the bill allowing the death penalty.

However, the chareidi parties are not the only ones opposed to the bill. Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday expressed opposition to the bill as well, saying at the meeting that the bill would not bring about greater security. “We need an in-depth hearing on this matter, as it has the potential to harm Israelis. Even if it is a coalition agreement, we should be able to hear different opinions on the issue.” In response, Liberman shouted at Steinitz and stormed out of the meeting.

He was followed by Prime Minsiter Binyamin Netanyahu, who tried to calm him down. Speaking at a press conference later announcing passage of the law to deport illegal African workers, Netanyahu expressed confidence that the Death Penalty Bill would pass.