In the wake of Thursday’s kidnapping of three yeshiva high school students in Israel’s Gush Etzion region, a number of public figures have come forward proposing a variety of actions they recommend Israel take in response. These range from annexing territory to executing prisoners.
Israel has a death penalty on the books, but it to date has been reserved for Nazi war criminals and has only been applied to Adolf Eichmann, back in 1962. However, the law is written to include all genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, treason, and crimes against the Jewish People during wartime, and the current Arab-Israeli conflict can be considered a war. Thus, said Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home), it should be applied to terrorists, too. Ariel opposes negotiating with Hamas for the release of the missing boys.
Former MK Michael Ben-Ari also advocated applying the death penalty to imprisoned terrorists. On Facebook, he laid out his plan to use them as leverage for the freedom of the captured teens.
First, Ben-Ari explained in a video speech, Israel should re-arrest any terrorists released in previous prisoner swaps and “gestures”, pressuring them for information on Eyal Yifrah, 19, and 16-year-olds Naftali Frenkel and Gil-Ad Shayer. This is a measure also supported by Jewish Home MK Orit Strock, according to political analyst Tal Schneider.
“We must regain the initiative,” Schneider quoted Strock in a blog post. “Arresting the terrorists that were freed will flip the situation. We can also take hostages.”
Then, Ben-Ari continues, all prisoners, including those currently conducting a hunger strike in Israeli jail, should be exiled to Syria. “Let them hunger strike under (Syrian President) Bashar Assad, or (Hamas leader) Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza, not here,” remarked Ben-Ari. “Don’t force feed them, there’s no need.”
Finally, Ben-Ari wants all terrorists retried and sentenced to death. “There is a death penalty, it doesn’t need to be legislated. Let them beg, let them shake in fear, let the whole world shout. We want our children home now! A hanging every hour in the streets like they do in the Arab countries, this is how they do things.” That, he said, will “teach them, this is the penalty for a murderer of Jews. …To return the fear to them, and not to our mothers and our children.”
According to Ben-Ari, the goal should be “that the next time, if someone thinks about kidnapping one of our children, they (the Arabs) will slaughter him, not us…Let them know there’s a price, a very heavy price on those who harm us.”
Though he believes prayer is an important tool to ensure the safety of the children, Ben-Ari panned the public prayer rallies held these past few days. “These prayers remind me of the Jews in the ghetto. We need to pray, and I pray also, but I prefer that the main prayers be in mosques.”
However, he noted, “I’m convinced that the impotent government of Israel won’t do anything with [my plan], but we need to know that this is what must be done.”
Meanwhile, MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) had a more peaceful proposal. On Monday, she reiterated the call to annex the Etzion settlement bloc.
Speaking at the Yesha settlers’ council conference, she said, “My friends from the [political] center: Suddenly it doesn’t seem so far-fetched to annex the Etzion bloc. If Hamas understands that when it kidnaps children in the Etzion bloc, we annex the Etzion bloc, they won’t carry out any more abductions in other areas.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni (Hatnua) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) have both threatened to leave the government if unilateral moves are made towards annexation, however, and the plan does not have widespread support.
So far, the government is reportedly weighing the option of exiling senior Hamas leaders currently in the West Bank to the Gaza strip. Officially, however, all the Knesset will confirm is that it will exact a price from Hamas for its perceived involvement in the kidnapping. Although the organization denies responsibility, the Israeli government maintains it is behind the entire operation.
150 Hamas-affiliated operatives have been arrested since Thursday night when the boys went missing, and Palestinian movement in the West Bank has been severely restricted in an effort to locate the kidnapped students.