As if the growing tension between Israel and the Palestinians over the expected UN vote to recognize a Palestinian state and the failed attempts to breathe life into the dying diplomatic process weren't enough, the government has added fuel to the fire over the issue of transferring 84 bodies of terrorists to the Palestinian Authority.
A humanitarian gesture in honor of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan turned into another argument with our neighbors. Once again, short-term populist considerations and a primitive desire for revenge trumped long-term interests and any spark of compassion. An effort to restore at least a little of the shattered trust with our only partner for resolving the bloody conflict ended up deepening the rift between the sides.
Hamas will surely not miss the opportunity to assail the PA leadership, which after 18 years of a sterile peace process cannot even get Israel to give up a few dozen bodies. Moreover, five years after Gilad Shalit's abduction, it's clear that even hundreds of live prisoners still behind bars haven't softened Hamas' position in the negotiations to obtain his release. Thus a few dozen rotting bodies could hardly be considered "bargaining chips."
We can sympathize with the bereaved families whose loved ones were murdered by some of the terrorists whose bodies are at issue, and who are upset that these murderers will presumably be given heroes' funerals. Still, it's time to decide that Israel will no longer hold the bodies of terrorists. There is no purpose or logic to it.
A civilized country doesn't traffic in bodies, not even the bodies of terrorists. A society that ascribes special importance to the dignity of the dead should not adopt the practices of terrorist organizations when it comes to enemy bodies. Unfortunately, a series of mishaps and contradictory announcements during this miserable incident provided yet more evidence of poor judgment and worrisome flaws in the decision-making process at the highest levels of government.
We can only hope that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come to his senses and put an end to this necrophilic farce, which makes Israel look delusional. He must announce immediately that the 84 bodies are being transferred to the Palestinian Authority. And in honor of the holiday, as a humanitarian gesture, it would also be worth including sick or elderly prisoners in the handover, as has been the custom in the past.
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