Visa-free regime will not improve political contacts between Minsk and Jerusalem
Last week, Deputy Minister for Sport and Tourism Mikhali Portnov officially confirmed the introduction of the visa-free regime with Israel. Negotiations between Minsk and Jerusalem on the introduction of the visa-free regime were ongoing over the past few years, and the starting date had been postponed by Israel several times. The current level of political contacts between the Belarusian and Israeli leaders and prospects for their development are quite low. The Israeli government has once again taken a preliminary decision to close its diplomatic mission to Minsk for economic reasons. In addition, speaking of Minsk’s interests in the Middle East, high-level contacts with the Arab countries seem to be more appealing to the Belarusian authorities, than with Israel.
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.