Rishon LeTzion Harav Yitzchak Yosef, shlita, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, said in his weekly Motzoei Shabbos shiur that he did not believe instituting the death penalty for terrorists was a good idea. “There is no benefit in it; we are not the Sanhedrin. If the law is passed and it applies to a Jewish terrorist, killing him would be against halachah,” he said.
Harav Yosef’s comments were engendered by the ongoing efforts of the coalition to pass an amendment to the existing law on the death penalty for terrorists in Yehudah and Shomron. Such a law is already on the books, and says that if a tribunal of three military judges votes for it, the death penalty can be imposed on terrorists. The amendment, promoted by Yisrael Beytenu and part of the coalition agreement, would allow the death penalty to be imposed if just two out of three judges vote for it.
Harav Yosef’s position is likely to put that vote – and perhaps the coalition – into jeopardy, as Shas would be unlikely to vote for the bill against Harav Yosef’s position. “Security officials say there is no benefit in this,” Harav Yosef said. “This is not a matter of right or left. Gedolei Yisrael were always opposed to death penalties. It is up to Shamayim to judge if someone deserves to die … It is up to Shamayim, we are not the Sanhedrin” that can impose such penalties, he said.
Shas will not be the first chareidi party to question the wisdom of the law. Last week, United Torah Judaism said that its MKs would not vote for the bill. The bill had been set for a vote already last week, but was delayed until this week at the request of UTJ, which asked for the time in order to consult on the matter with Gedolei Yisrael. The bill is part of the coalition agreement between the Likud and all government coalition members.
It is not only chareidi parties that have been doubting the validity of the law. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman angrily stormed out of a coalition meeting Wednesday, when Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Wednesday expressed opposition to the bill, 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.