Minsk and Jerusalem will reduce level of interstate contacts
In 2016, Belarus and Israel will close their embassies in these countries. According to the Foreign Ministry, Belarus will close its embassy in Israel due to economic reasons and budget constraints. In 2003, Jerusalem closed the embassy in Minsk because of the cost savings, but reopened two years later. Meanwhile, foreign policy analysts believe that the closure of the embassies could be due to political reasons – domestic clashes between various parties in Israel, as well as Belarus lacking the independence in foreign policy and her dependence on the Kremlin. It is worth noting that Belarus has friendly or benevolent relations with some Middle East countries, which are not in the neighbourly relations, and often confront one another, such as Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. When embassies close, relations between Minsk and Israel are likely to chill, as they will lose high-level political contacts and an important communication channel.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.