Return of terrorist’s body to family for burial reveals government divisions

The return of the body on Tuesday contradicted a policy Netanyahu instituted in late March, when he directed Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to stop returning the bodies of terrorists after attacks.

May 4, 2016 18:16
2 minute read.
Terror Israel

Palestinian gunmen in Shuafat carry weapons during a funeral march for a Palestinian terrorist, shot dead by police after stabbing two Israelis in Jerusalem’s Old City. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

The quick transfer to the Palestinians of the body of the terrorist who rammed into three soldiers near Dolev on Tuesday sparked yet more coalition tension, with Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Bayit Yehudi) calling the move a mistake on Wednesday.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) has also come out against the move.

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“This is a grave error that encourages the next attack,” Bennett said, before the weekly cabinet meeting, which was moved to Wednesday because Mimouna fell on Sunday. The body was returned some four hours after Tuesday’s attack which left one soldier in serious condition.

“We need to prevent the worship of the graves of terrorists, and there is no reason to give a present to the families of murderers,” Bennett said, adding that this has consistently been his position on the matter, and that he will continue to fight for it.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position, however, has changed. The return of the corpse on Tuesday contradicted a policy Netanyahu instituted in late March, when he directed Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to stop returning the bodies of terrorists after attacks.

Although in the past the funerals of terrorists have led to mass rallies, Ya’alon’s position was that withholding the bodies only exacerbated the situation, leading to more violence.

Netanyahu issued a statement at 11:30 Tuesday night – after the corpse was returned – explaining that three days earlier he had given authority on what to do with the bodies of terrorists to Ya’alon, who has jurisdiction in the West Bank, and Erdan, who has authority on such matters inside the Green Line and in east Jerusalem.

Policy differences on this issue between Ya’alon and Erdan have led to a situation in the past where the bodies of terrorists from inside the Green Line and east Jerusalem have not been handed over to their families until they guarantee that the burial ceremony will take place late at night, and with only a limited number of participants, while the bodies of terrorists from the West Bank have been returned.

Erdan acknowledged before the cabinet meeting that there were differences on the matter between him and the Defense Ministry, and between the police and the IDF.

Earlier this week, Erdan explained that the policy is one meant to prevent incitement, saying that every mass funeral for a terrorist “creates someone else who wants to be a shahid [martyr in Arabic].”

“To this day, we are holding 13 bodies until the families committed to having a funeral with few people in the middle of the night so there’s no incitement, and they have to pay a deposit to make sure they do it,” he said in an interview on Monday. “It’s unfortunate that the bodies are still with us.”

Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman called on Netanyahu to resign, following the release of the terrorist’s body.

“While an IDF soldier is fighting for his life in the hospital after the ramming attack yesterday in Dolev, the body of the terrorist responsible for the attack has already been returned to his family and was received by hundreds of Kalandiya residents with cries of encouragement and happiness about the attack,” Liberman said.

According to the opposition MK, “Netanyahu’s actions not only shame the public but severely weaken our deterrence toward potential terrorists and encourage attacks. He must resign immediately.”

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