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Hardliner's appointment renews Israel death penalty debate

1 min 4Approximate reading time

The appointment of hardliner Avigdor Lieberman as defence minister has reignited debate over the death penalty in Israel, where no executions have been carried out since 1962.

Lieberman, who has yet to be sworn in, sought the death penalty for Palestinian "terrorists" as part of negotiations for his nationalist party to join Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition.

In the end, he backed away from the demand and a compromise was reached that could make it somewhat easier for a military court to hand down a death sentence to Palestinians, though significant hurdles would remain.

Here are key points on the death penalty in Israel:

- Capital punishment remains in place, though its use for criminal cases was abolished by a parliament vote in 1954. It can still in theory be used for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, treason, and crimes against the Jewish people.

- The death penalty has only been carried out twice in Israel. Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was executed in 1962, while military officer Meir Tobianski was executed by the military in 1948 on charges of treason. Tobianski was posthumously exonerated.

- There have been occasional calls for the use of capital punishment, particularly following deadly attacks by Palestinians. In 2011, the killing of a Jewish family of five, including a three-month-old baby, by two Palestinians in the Itamar settlement prompted such calls.

- The new coalition deal foresees changing the current requirement that a panel of three military judges unanimously approve any death penalty in military courts. Lieberman has sought a change that would require a majority instead, or two out of three judges. The coalition agreement says "the words 'and the verdict will be handed down unanimously' will be erased." Its effect remains unclear.

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