The former defense minister accused Netanyahu and Gantz of offering to provide safe passage to Gaza for the body of deceased terror chief Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, without securing the return of IDF soldiers’ remains currently in Hamas custody.
By Ebin Sandler, World Israel News
On Sunday, Israeli lawmaker Naftali Bennett slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Twitter, lambasting them for their alleged role in funeral arrangements for Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, the former leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group.
Shalah died in Lebanon on Saturday night two years after he suffered a stroke that left him in a coma from which he never recovered.
Addressing Netanyahu and Gantz directly in his first tweet, Bennett asked, “Why did you approve the entry of Shalah’s body for burial in the Gaza Strip? Why didn’t you condition this on the release of [the bodies] of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul?”
Bennett’s tweet referred to two fallen IDF soldiers whose remains have been held captive by Hamas, which is trying to secure the release of hundreds of convicted terrorists from Israeli prisons in exchange for the return of Goldin and Shaul’s bodies.
“Why did you give our enemies a free pass?” Bennett added.
The former defense minister, who served in the interim government under Netanyahu, placed an addendum on the earlier tweet reflecting the fact that Shalah had in the end been buried in Damascus, Syria, alongside another leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a brutal Iran-backed terror faction that regularly launches rockets at Israel while sparring with Hamas rivals int he Gaza Strip.
The Damascus burial contradicted earlier statements by senior Islamic Jihad official Nafez Azzam that Egypt was facilitating the transfer of Shalah’s body though Cairo and eventually to Gaza, by way of the Rafah crossing.
Israeli government officials did not comment on Bennett’s accusations.
Earlier on Sunday, Bennett accused the government of permitting the Palestinian Authority to pay NIS 100,000,000 to “murderers and their families,” a reference to the salaries the PA furnishes to terrorists who commit attacks against Israelis.
Shalah, who was 62 years old when he died on Saturday, was educated in England and taught at the University of South Florida, before returning to the Middle East to oversee Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Under Shalah’s leadership, the terror group secured massive amounts of aid from Iran and mounted suicide bombings and rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians. In 1995, the United States declared that Shalah was a “specially designated terrorist” under federal law and faced charges of “providing material support to [Islamic Jihad], conspiracy to kill and maim persons abroad, racketeering, immigration fraud, perjury, extortion and obstruction of justice,” according to the Countering Extremism Project (CEP).
On Sunday, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas called Shalah “a great national figure,” sending condolences to his family.