Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yaakov Yosef came out Saturday night against capital punishment, saying that implementing the death penalty in Israel would put Jews abroad in danger, and adding that religious authorities have “always opposed capital punishment.”
Yosef noted that many security officials also oppose capital punishment.
“It’s not a matter of right- or left-wing,” Yosef said. “There is simply no benefit to be gained. If the law were to be implemented against a Jew, it would violate Jewish law (halacha). And even if a terrorist were to be sentenced to death – can you imagine the outcry around the world between the time that the sentence was handed down and the time it was carried out? It could put Jews all over the world… in danger. And for what?”
The proposal to introduce capital punishment in Israel for terrorists, tabled by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, sparked a political storm last week despite winning initial approval in the Knesset plenum: Coalition member United Torah Judaism abstained from the vote, saying they wanted to consult with Ashkenazi rabbinic leaders before voting, and National Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz said that voting the proposal into law would be the “worst thing Israel could do to itself and predicted the measure would not become law.
“I decide to vote in favor only after Netanyahu said that after the preliminary vote, the bill would return to the Cabinet for more deliberations,” Steinitz told the Israel Broadcasting Corporation (Kan) last Thursday. “This law is the worst thing Israel can do to itself; the damage will exceed the benefit on an international level,” he said.
Former Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, Attorney General Avichai Mandleblit and Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman also oppose the law.
Implementing capital punishment would be a “barbaric throwback to a primitive age,” MK Shelly Yachimovich (Zionist Union).