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Israeli soldiers carry the dead body of one of two Palestinians, whom the Israeli military said were shot dead by Israeli troops after they attacked an Israeli soldier, in Tal Rumaida in the West Bank city of Hebron March 24, 2016. .(Photo by: REUTERS)
Bill making it harder to relinquish terrorists’ bodies moves forward
'There is no concept of respect for the dead when it comes to terrorists who killed people'.
The Knesset plenum has approved bills in their first reading that would make it harder for the remains of terrorists to be given over for burial.

The bills, sponsored by MKs Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) and Anat Berko (Likud), would give local police commanders the authority to set conditions for transferring for burial the bodies of perpetrators of terrorist attacks. The bills are intended to discourage terrorist attacks and prevent high profile funerals of terrorists that in the past have been full of incitement to commit more attacks.

The legislation that passed a vote on Wednesday is intended to bypass a High Court of Justice ruling last month that the government cannot hold the remains of terrorist as bargaining chips, a ruling that was sharply criticized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, and other leaders of the Right.

The High Court in its ruling declared that the state cannot retain terrorist bodies as part of a strategy to force Hamas to return living and dead Israelis from the Gaza Strip, without a law explicitly granting that authority. The decision gave the state six months to pass a law granting it the authority to hold on to the terrorists’ bodies that would comply with related domestic and international law, or it will need to return the bodies.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) said that until the High Court’s ruling, his ministry’s policy was to not hand over the bodies, and to prevent the mass funerals from taking place. He said the court’s ruling was “strange” and encouraged terrorist attacks.

“There is no concept of respect for the dead when it comes to terrorists who killed people,” Erdan told the plenum.

Smotrich said his legislation would have been unnecessary were it not for the court ruling, because it was clear to everyone until then that the police had the right to keep the bodies. He said the ruling was counter-intuitive.

But Joint List MK Abdel-Hakim Haj Yahya said the bills were populist and “stuck a finger in the eye of the High Court.” He said the court was right to not sanction using bodies as bargaining chips.

“The court said to bury the bodies,” the MK said. “This bill is delusional. Respect for the dead means burying the bodies, no matter what the identity of the dead was and no matter what they did when they were alive.”

The bill passed by a vote of 62 in favor, 21 against, and three abstentions. It will continue to be legislated by the Knesset Interior Committee.

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