Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday not to allow any more return of terrorists’ bodies to their families or the Palestinian Authority.
The order, confirmed by sources in the Prime Minister’s Office, was first reported by Israel’s Channel 2 television news.
In October 2015, the cabinet voted against returning terrorist bodies, but the army only followed through for less than a week.
Initially the army claimed they released the bodies due to a mix-up, and then Defense Minister Yaalon said he ordered the bodies released them after making an agreement with the PA, which the PA promptly disregarded to Ya’alon’s surprise.
Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot and Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) have strongly disagreed with this position of holding terrorists’ bodies, which is one that supported by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
All three military men have argued that holding on to terrorists’ bodies further inflames passions and escalates tensions with Arab communities. Ya’alon is also vehemently opposed to the “moral ground” of the issue, what he has called “trading in bodies.” His nephew is one of the soldiers whose body was captured and is held by the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has long argued against returning the bodies, however, contending that most terrorists’ funerals are used as forums for greater incitement against Israel and venues for recruiting more “martyrs.” Erdan ordered Israel Police not to return the bodies of terrorists who fall under their jurisdiction unless their families first agree to a series of stringent requirements to control the size and nature of the funeral.
Although Netanyahu offered no reason for the order, nor did his office, Netanyahu may be using this to indirectly express his displeasure with Ya’alon, both for ignoring the October cabinet decision and for Ya’alon’s ongoing public statements against the IDF soldier who shot and killed the terrorist in Hebron, which are inflaming public opinion against the Netanyahu government.
Some Arab analysts are speculating there may be another prisoner swap under consideration. One who agrees is an Arab writer on the Palestinian Authority side. Writing in Alresalah, Mustafa Swaf notes that in 2006, “every Israeli demand had a price.”
Hana Levi Julian