An estimated 2,000 people demonstrated through the streets of the northern town of Afula on Saturday as the nation becomes increasingly frustrated with the government’s perceived leniency toward Arabs who murder Jews.
The rally was called in memory of Shelly Dadon, who was killed just north of Afula earlier this month. Police believe the murder was a terrorist act, and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said there had been “dramatic” developments in the case, which at press time remains under a gag order.
Many of the thousands gathered in Afula wore red gloves to symbolize their distaste with the government’s handling of terrorists “with blood on their hands.” The crowd blocked major roads through the city, and a few resorted to hurling stones at passing vehicles. Police arrested at least 10 people as the demonstration turned more raucous.
The government is often very reluctant to label murders as acts of terrorism when Israeli Arabs are involved. And, even when they do, there is always justifiable concern that the killers will be released after serving only a fraction of their sentence in “goodwill gestures” to Israel’s Arab peace partners.
In a move aimed as assuaging the outraged Israelis, the government on Sunday voted on a new bill that would allow courts to sentence murderers to life without the possibility of parole. The bill passed its first reading, and, if passed into law, would override the president’s ability to pardon the worst terrorists and criminals.
“For the last thirty years Israeli governments have been releasing murderous terrorists. Sometimes in exchange for something. Sometimes in exchange for nothing,” said Economy Minister Naftali Bennett ahead of the vote. “The time has come to put an end to this.”
The bill was rejected by opposition MKs, as well as by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, with further enraged many Israelis who have lost loved ones to terrorism, only to see the killers freed and sent home to a heroes welcome.