Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has issued an order not to return the bodies of Palestinian terrorists killed during attacks, reversing the policy of Moshe Ya'alon,his predecessor.
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Lieberman made his directive after Israel's diplomatic-security cabinet convened Thursday to discuss next steps fewer than 24 hours after four were killed in a shooting attack at Tel Aviv's Sarona Market.
Ya'alon had argued that retaining bodies only inflames the atmosphere and does not constitute a barganing chip. Army brass tended to agree with Ya'alon. Lieberman asserts that returning bodies sends the wrong message regarding the perpetrators, and preventing their return can deter potential attackers and their families.
A senior official in Jerusalem said that during the three-hour security cabinet meeting, Lieberman asked Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit to look into the possibility of shortening the legal process to allow faster home demolitions of terrorist homes.
Mendelblit and members of the security cabinet, who have been discussing the issue in recent months, explained to Lieberman that his demand wasn't possible due to legal reasons. They told him that a full and fair procedure must be followed, which lengthens the amount of time necessary to approve demolishing the homes of terrorists.
"Mendelblit and others explained to him that Israel was a lawful state and that there were courts and there's a process that must be maintained," a senior official privy to the contents of the meeting said. Lieberman however insisted and said there were other countries in which the law allows the demolition of houses within 24 hours. Several ministers then asked Lieberman to which countries he was referring to, but the defense minister did not respond and the meeting continued.
The question of returning terrorist bodies to their families also arose at the meeting. The senior official remarked that Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who opposes returning terrorist bodies, suggested reestablishing the cemetery where until a few years ago Israel buried terrorists killed during attacks. Erdan advocated a complete halt to the return of terrorist bodies and a return to the policy of the second intifada of burying killed terrorists in the cemetery.
The senior official added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the National Security Council to do preparatory work on the issue of the possibility of reestablishing the terrorist cemetery in order to understand the repercussions of such a step.
No significant decisions were made in the meeting. A statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office said that the members of the security cabinet were given intelligence and operational briefing. They were told that the troops were surrounding the terrorists hometown, Yatta, in the Hebron area and that work permits given to their family members have been revoked.
'No intentions of settling for lip service'
Lieberman hinted at things to come earlier in the day while he visited the site of the attack. "Allow me to express my condolences to the families and wish a speedy recovery to the wounded," Lieberman said. "I've come to salute the Tel Avivians who are again undergoing an uneasy event and yet wishing to return to life and prove that life is stronger."
"I don’t plan on detailing the steps we'll be taking, but I certainly have no intentions of settling for lip service," the defense minister said.
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said on Thursday morning that life in the Hebron-area town that the assailants come from "won't carry on as usual."
"Life in the Yatta village won't carry on as usual. A village that has terrorists leaving from its midst will pay the price," he said. "Entry and exit from the village will be allowed in humanitarian cases." Referring to the IDF's cordoning off of the Palestinian village, Ben-Dahan said that it is casting a wide net that will then be narrowed.
On Wednesday night, all permits that were given to Palestinians for Ramadan were suspended.
"Unfortunately, every year the month of Ramadan is a month with terror. Security forces are beefed up during this month every year," Ben-Dahan said.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett spoke of the attack at an event marking a decade to the Second Lebanon War.
"There's a line that links the terrorist villains who walked into a café to kill Jews because they are Jews to that murderous organization sitting to our north," he said, referring to Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Yatta, said that the assailants were not known to be members of terror groups.
"We're very surprised, and the only explanation for what happened is that the two were influenced by all that has happened recently," said Mayor Musa Muhamara, referring to the wave of violence that began in October. "It must be mentioned that the Hebron area, including Yatta, has paid a heavy price in terms of those killed and of incidents, and this apparently influenced them."
He added that security forces searched homes and detained a family member of the assailants and other residents.
Haaretz correspondents Barak Ravid, Noa Shpigel, Jonathan Lis, Jack Khoury and Gili Cohen contributed to this report.