Naftali Bennett: Israel will no longer release the bodies of terrorists

The new policy will be introduced shortly in the security cabinet as part of a broader deterrence policy.

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett (photo credit: ABIR SULTAN/POOL/VIA REUTERS)
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett
Israel will no longer release the bodies of terrorists, according to what appeared a new policy by Defense Minister Naftali Bennett.
This will be the case regardless of which terrorist organization the person belonged to.
Bennett instructed the IDF and the defense establishment on Tuesday to completely stop the release of terrorist bodies. The decision came following a number of discussions that he held on the issue of deterrence with senior security officials.
Exceptions, according to a statement by the Defense Ministry, will only be made in extenuating circumstances and at the discretion of the defense minister.
The new policy will be introduced shortly in the security cabinet as part of a broader deterrence policy, and will come into effect after the cabinet's approval.
According to a political source, the policy change followed a request made to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 10 days ago in a closed meeting by the family of Lt. Hadar Goldin, whose body has been held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas since 2014.
But Leah Goldin, Hadar’s mother, told The Jerusalem Post that this decision was made two years ago by a cabinet official and had just not been effectively announced or implemented until today.
Since Goldin was killed and kidnapped, his parents have been calling both locally and abroad for the release of their son's remains to be laid to rest in Israel in a Jewish burial.  
Goldin told the Post that in her meeting with Netanyahu and other security officials last week, “Bibi reconfirmed that this is what he is going to do and that he would be instructing all the relevant people.
“Now, with Naftali Bennett as defense minister making a public statement about it, we feel more confident that they are really about getting back our soldiers,” Goldin continued.
She said “it is inconceivable that while the soldiers are in the hands of Hamas, we will continue to release dead or living terrorists. Freeing terrorists is a prize that Hamas cannot be given while holding on to our soldiers and civilians.”
She expressed confidence that such a policy would serve as deterrent for further action by the terrorist group.
“Look how nervous they have become about it,” she said.
While Israel continues to work for long-term ceasefire arrangement with Hamas through mediators like Egypt, the remains of two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 war, Goldin and Sgt. Oron Shaul, remain in the hands of Hamas in the Strip.
Two living civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, are also being held in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has repeatedly demanded the return of the bodies and the civilians in exchange for a full quiet in Gaza.  But Hamas has repeatedly refused the demands, attempting to use all four as bargaining chips in negotiations for prisoner releases and to take advantage of the situation to make continued psychological warfare against Israel.
Goldin noted that in the past, the prime minister had pledged to her family that a ceasefire wold not take place without bringing the boys home.
 “Operation Protective edge is not over until Hamas returns Hadar and Oron,” Golding said. “We see it everyday - every day a missile is launched at Israel it is because our soldiers are still there.”
But human rights and Palestinian organizations expressed opposite sentiments.
According to a statement released by Adalah, the human rights organization which represents the families of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops, Israel has been holding the bodies of 51 Palestinians since April 2016.
"The instructions issued by defense minister Bennett are an attempt to trade in the bodies of deceased persons, who are entitled to respect and burial,” said Attorney Hassan Jabareen, Adalah’s General Director. “No country in the world allows itself to hold and use bodies as a card for negotiation and political bargaining. These practices violate international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law, including the UN Convention against Torture, which absolutely prohibits such cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."
MK Joseph Jabarin expressed strong criticism of the new policy, as well.
"Bennett is contemptuously politicizing a humanitarian issue and this must be firmly opposed," Jabarin said in a statement. Holding bodies and preventing immediate burial is immoral and contrary to international law."
He accused the "Netanyahu, Bennett and [Bezalel] Smotrich government ... of stealing land, torturing [people], destroying homes and now holding Palestinians' bodies, thereby collectively punishing their relatives for their wrongdoing."
The head of Inmate Affairs Kadari Abu Bacher said the decision reveals Bennett to be a hateful extremist who is motivated by the desire to take vengeance on the families of the dead men.
"The world must take a real and clear stand in front of this entity [Israel]," he said, "which proves day in, day out, that it is a terrorist group."
In January 2018, while the Knesset was debating a bill that would make it harder for the remains of terrorists to be given over for burial, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said that the policy of returning bodies encouraged terrorist attacks.
“There is no concept of respect for the dead when it comes to terrorists who killed people,” Erdan said.
In September 2019, the Israeli Supreme Court reversed an earlier ruling that said that the state had no authority to hold on to remains of Palestinians and that they must be immediately returned to their families for burial.
Under the 2019 ruling, the state may continue to hold bodies as emergency regulations allow for the military to order the interim burial of bodies designated as deceased enemies based on considerations for state security and the need to negotiate for the return of missing IDF soldiers.