On Monday, the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed a bill limiting the release of Palestinian prisoners accused of murdering Israelis under “serious circumstances.” Thirty-five Knesset members voted in favor of the bill, while fifteen MKs opposed its passage.
The legislation, proposed by MKs Ayelet Shaked (HaBeit HaYehudi) and David Tzur (Hatnua), was passed in its second and third readings before the Knesset. According to Israeli media, the new law adds another level of punishment beyond life imprisonment which judges can impose when ruling on especially severe murder cases.
The new law prohibits releasing Palestinian prisoners or reducing a prisoner’s sentence in the context of a political agreement or an exchange of prisoners. In such cases, the convicted prisoner cannot be released as part of diplomatic negotiations, nor can parole be invoked until at least forty years of prison time have been served. The law also deprives prisoners of the right to request commutation of a life sentence until fifteen years have elapsed since the initial arrest for the crime.
In a speech before the Knesset, MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) said: “The law, proposed by Ayelet Shaked and supported by all right-wing parties, which prevents granting pardons to prisoners constitutes yet another obstacle in the path of reaching a peaceful solution with the Palestinian people.” Khenin noted that not only does the legislation target Palestinian political prisoners and those arrested on criminal grounds, but also is intended to be “part of a series of obstacles put forth by the Knesset’s government coalition and the cabinet against any attempt to advance a future political settlement.”
“The new law is an extraordinary move in which the government actually accepts the crippling of its own powers, and attests to the wholesale competition existing between the government coalition in the Knesset and the cabinet to see who can push through more racist and more extremist laws” said Khenin and concluded: “The law, passed by the Knesset, sends a clear message to the Palestinian people that there is no partner in the efforts aimed at reaching a future peace solution.”