Return of terrorists’ bodies rekindles controversy among victims’ families

The state responded to a petition submitted by Hadar Goldin’s family demanding that terrorists’ bodies not be returned.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

On Friday, the Israeli government gave the families of two terrorists their sons’ remains and allowed their burial, eliciting great public outcry among Israelis. It especially angered the Goldins, whose son Hadar was killed in Operation Protective Edge and whose body is still being held by Hamas in Gaza. They have been tireless in their efforts to prevent such turnovers until their son’s remains are returned, and on Sunday they petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the government from releasing any more bodies.

The basis of the petition is a government decision at a cabinet meeting in January 2017, stating that Israel will hold the bodies of those who “carried out a particularly exceptional terrorist incident” and “terrorist bodies belonging to Hamas.”

But, as the Goldin family noted, since the cabinet decision was made, the government has returned the bodies of terrorists several times, including last Friday. They asked the Supreme Court to order the government to finally fully implement the cabinet’s decisions regarding release of bodies, or, at a minimum, provide a 72-hour warning before it returns terrorists’ remains again. On Wednesday, the government agreed to do this.

Government officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on down have said many times over the years that Israel “won’t” or “shouldn’t” return the bodies of terrorists who died committing or attempting attacks. However, the government has also complied with numerous Supreme Court decisions ordering the release of bodies.

In the latest ruling on the subject, the High Court of Justice ruled 2-1 in December that the state could not hold terrorists’ remains indefinitely, as bargaining chips to get Hamas to return the bodies of soldiers (such as Goldin or fellow soldier Oren Shaul) and/or live civilians, three of whom are believed to be held in the Gaza Strip after crossing the border on their own. The court did say, however, that its decision would be reversed if the government enacts a law in line with international standards authorizing holding terrorists’ bodies. The court gave the state six months to do so.

While declaring immediately that it would start the necessary legislative process, the government then appealed the ruling, asking that it be judged by a broader panel of justices. On Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut ordered new hearings by seven judges on the subject, to be held in June. She also ordered that no further bodies of terrorists be returned until the hearing takes place.