The body of the Palestinian who rammed his truck into three Israeli soldiers in the West Bank settlement of Dolev should not have been returned to his family, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Wednesday.
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The decision to return the body was made Tuesday night; that day a vehicle rammed into three soldiers who were manning the Ein Arik checkpoint near Ramallah. The driver was shot and killed; of the two injured soldiers, one was in serious condition.
“Releasing the bodies of terrorists to the murderers’ families is a bad mistake that encourages the next terror attack,” Bennett said at the start of a cabinet meeting.
He said that in Israel proper, the police decide on the matter, and their policy is not to return terrorists’ bodies to their families. But in the West Bank the public security minister and the army decide.
“In Judea and Samaria there has been movement on this issue and I hope we can restore the policy to what it had been,” Bennett said.
Erdan spoke before entering the cabinet meeting, saying he would continue the policy of only returning terrorists’ bodies to families that agree to a small funeral at night. The family would also have to pledge funds stipulated for the funeral.
“The police’s policy was never changed,” Erdan said. “Regarding talks between the prime minister and the public security minister on the subject, I suggest you ask them. The differences between the police and the army are common knowledge.”
A month ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was criticized for legal moves against a soldier suspected of shooting a terrorist who had been wounded and was lying on the ground. Netanyahu announced that he had ordered Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon not to return terrorists’ bodies to their families.
On Tuesday night, after the body was returned in the car-ramming incident, Netanyahu’s office published a clarification. It said the late-March decision had been revoked and that responsibility for the issue had been returned to the public security and defense ministers.
On Wednesday the Prime Minister’s Office said Ya’alon had been empowered to make the decision on returning the body after the Dolev incident.
An argument has raged in the cabinet for three months between Ya’alon and Erdan over returning terrorists’ bodies to their families. Erdan instructed the police not to return bodies of terrorists from East Jerusalem unless the families agreed to restrictions on the funeral. Erdan and the police say they want to prevent mass funerals that exacerbate tensions.
The police have thus refrained from returning the bodies of terrorists from East Jerusalem to their families, while the army has not returned the bodies of terrorists from the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority has raised the issue with international organizations as a means to attack Israel on the diplomatic front. Ya’alon and top army officers argue that a failure to return bodies inflames feelings, leading to escalation.