Commentary Magazine


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Israel Needs a Death Penalty for Terrorism

I hate the death penalty and always have, so I do not say this lightly, but it’s high time even opponents of capital punishment start thinking seriously about executing convicted terrorists. Unlike even the worst criminals such as serial killers, terrorists remain dangerous to societies at large even after they’ve been locked up with life sentences because innocents outside the prison walls are frequently kidnapped to secure their release.

The Israeli government just struck a deal with Hamas to free Gilad Shalit, a soldier who was kidnapped five years ago near the border with Gaza. In exchange for Shalit’s release, hundreds of Hamas prisoners will also be freed. All the hard work that went into capturing these people and removing them from the field has now been undone. Not even the most violent terrorists are executed by Israel because the country removed the death penalty from the books in 1954. Those hundreds collectively will almost certainly end up being responsible for more Israeli casualties.

Israel is not wrong to do everything possible to get its citizens out of enemy hands. It’s what decent societies do. But this is an awfully steep price, a price that would have been drastically lower if dangerous terrorists, rather than run-of-the-mill criminals or conventional prisoners of war, were no longer waiting for their comrades-in-arms to kidnap innocents on their behalf.