Netanyahu Orders Defense Minister Not to Return Terrorists’ Bodies to Palestinian Authority

Prime minister’s associates refuse to reveal reason for instructions, which are counter to stated position of both defense minister and IDF chief of staff.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits next to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, November 2015
Emil Salman

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon not to return any more terrorists’ bodies held by the army to the Palestinian Authority, according to sources in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Netanyahu’s associates refused to say what the reason or background was for these instructions, which were given to Ya’alon on Sunday and were first reported by Channel 2.

The prime minister’s orders contradict the position of Ya’alon, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot and Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories. They all believe that retaining the bodies escalates tensions and further inflames the situation on the Palestinian side. Ya’alon also objects to it on moral grounds, arguing that Israel has no need to “trade in bodies."

Over the past three months, there has been a dispute between Ya’alon and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan over the issue of returning terrorists’ bodies to their families. Erdan has told the police not to return the bodies of East Jerusalem assailants to their families unless they agree to a series of conditions regarding the nature of the funeral.

Erdan and the police claim they want to prevent the holding of mass funerals that could further agitate the Palestinians.

As a result, the police have been holding the remains of East Jerusalem terrorists while the IDF was returning the corpses of West Bank assailants to their families. The PA has raised the issue of terrorists’ bodies in various international forums and has used it to attack Israel diplomatically.