Gallant nixes bill prohibiting return of terrorists’ bodies

The defense minister has already gone on record saying that terror organizations are not influenced by Israel holding on to their dead.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has nixed a colleague’s bill that would prohibit the return of terrorists’ bodies without specific permission from the prime minister, Israel Hayom reported Wednesday.

MK Eliyahu Revivo, a Likud backbencher, had proposed that corpses of those killed during or following their terrorist attack would be buried in the cemetery Israel has for its enemies.

The purpose of the bill, says its explanatory note, is to prevent the mass incitement to terror that the subsequent public funerals become, with massive crowds glorifying the “martyrs” and demanding more attacks.

“In recent years, we have witnessed a growing phenomenon in which, after terrorist attacks, expressions of support, encouragement, or identification with the act of terrorism, the threat, the organization to which he belonged, or the ideology in whose name he committed the act of terrorism are heard. In particular, this is expressed during the burial rites,” the note reads.

Although these events have escalated into “a phenomenon that actually endangers the peace and security of the public,” it continues, the political echelon has been pressured by “international or legal authorities” to return the bodies.

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However, it did give an out, whereby the prime minister could decide to give the body to the family “for special reasons.”

Revivo requested that it be submitted for approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, with an eye to bringing it to the Knesset plenum for a preliminary vote next Wednesday.

“The bodies of terrorists do not constitute an asset that affects the terrorist organizations in prisoner and missing persons deals, except in exceptional cases related to Hamas terrorists,” Gallant’s office said in a statement. “We prepare for these circumstances in any case, so there is no need for this law.”

The defense minister said the same thing in May, when he released four bodies of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority and was criticized for doing so by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. It “does not interest” the terror organizations and “won’t affect the decisions of [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar in Gaza,” Gallant said.

He attacked Ben-Gvir’s assertion that returning bodies is a sign of weakness to the Palestinians and a concession for which Israel gets no return. “These statements erode the souls of the families of the missing and create in them the wrong feeling that not enough is being done for them, which of course is not true,” he said.

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With Gallant’s veto, Revivo withdrew the bill from the committee’s agenda, saying that he knows it won’t pass without the defense minister’s support.

The proposal has been floated before, having been submitted by the Religious Zionism party in the last Knesset. Several members of the Opposition support it as well, with MKs Ze’ev Elkin and Sharren Haskel from the National Unity party having already submitted it in the current term.