Israelis Seek Death Penalty for Terrorists

Times Staff Writer

Senior Israeli officials called Sunday for mandatory capital punishment in cases of terrorist murder as angry citizens buried a slain man and woman described by security sources as the two latest victims in a string of nationalistically motivated killings.

“Death to terrorists!” chanted mourners at the funeral of Leah Elmakias, 19, whose bound body was found in a cave in northern Israel on Friday along with that of fellow Jewish schoolteacher Yosef Eliahu, 35. The two had been missing since July 21, and the discovery of their bodies touched off anti-Arab rioting in Afula, the town of 20,000 where both worked.

Cabinet to Debate Issue

The Israeli Cabinet was scheduled to debate the death penalty and other proposed anti-terrorist measures today, although it is unclear whether the issue will come to a vote.


While capital punishment is permitted in Israel for certain crimes, the only person executed during the 37-year history of the state was Nazi archcriminal Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible for implementing the “final solution” that sent 6 million Jews to their deaths at German hands before and during World War II.

The army said Sunday that three West Bank Arab youths have confessed to the kidnap-murders of the two teachers. It did not say how the three had been identified, but they were said to have reenacted their crime Saturday night.

On Sunday, an army spokesman announced, troops slapped a curfew on the youths’ home village of Arabbuna, just southeast of Afula, while military bulldozers flattened their families’ houses, a common Israeli tactic directed against relatives of suspected terrorists.

Prime Minister Shimon Peres praised the security forces for their fast action in a crime that has triggered widespread public reaction here.

In a poll conducted for the independent Haaretz newspaper and published Sunday, 70% of the respondents said they favor the death penalty for terrorists.

Moshe Arens, a Cabinet minister without portfolio, said Sunday that he will table a five-point plan to deter terrorism at today’s scheduled Cabinet meeting. Arens, who was defense minister in the last Israeli government, confirmed in a telephone interview that the plan includes mandatory capital punishment for terrorist murders; deportation for incitement to terrorism; transfer away from main West Bank highways of Palestinian refugee camps involved in frequent incidents of stonings or other attacks on Israeli vehicles; a ban on political parties that support the Palestine Liberation Organization, and legal prohibition of any contact by an Israeli citizen with representatives of the PLO.

‘Spilling of Citizens’ Blood’

Two other senior members of Arens’ Likud political bloc--Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Deputy Prime Minister David Levy--also called publicly Sunday for imposition of the death penalty in terrorist slayings.

“A civilized country cannot tolerate the spilling of its citizens’ blood by murderers,” Levy said during a graveside service for Eliahu in Afula. He called the death penalty “unavoidable.”

Five Murders Solved

While there is apparently no hard evidence of any connection, officials said the Afula killings bring to a dozen the number of Israeli Jews murdered for political purposes during the last year. At least five of those crimes have been solved and the murderers convicted.

“There is no doubt that we have recently been witnessing increased terrorist activity against targets in . . . Israel--both in the number of attacks in the form of explosive devices and bombs and the seizure of individual Israelis in remote places,” said Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin late last week.

Rifle, Knife, Binoculars

When they were arrested, the three youths had in their possession the rifle used to kill Eliahu, the knife apparently used to kill Elmakias and a pair of binoculars. Security sources said that they had planned the crime for some time and that they had stolen the rifle from a Jew living in the area.

Eliahu was reportedly driving Elmakias home when they disappeared at midday July 21. Eliahu’s car was found the next day in Janin, an Arab town across the so-called Green Line in West Bank territory occupied by Israel after the 1967 Six-Day War. Bloodstains and a spent bullet found in the vehicle indicated that the man was shot in the car. The circumstances of the woman’s death are not clear.

Israel radio reported that more than 1,000 extra police and border guards were mobilized Sunday to guard against disturbances at the funerals of the schoolteachers.

On Friday, two Arab passers-by were beaten in Afula by Jewish rioters reacting to news that the teachers’ bodies had been discovered. Arab-owned shops were ransacked. Police arrested 20 rioters, five of whom remained in custody Sunday.