Holding the Bodies of Terrorists Is Political Populism, Not Deterrence

Senior defense officials believe that holding attackers' bodies exacerbates violent trends. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is trying to earn political points by acting otherwise.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Israeli security forces and emergency personnel stand next to the body of a Palestinian man following an attack at Damascus Gate, a main entrance to Jerusalem's Old City on February 3, 2016.
Israeli security forces and emergency personnel stand next to the body of a Palestinian man following an attack at Damascus Gate, a main entrance to Jerusalem's Old City on February 3, 2016. Credit: AFP

Three Israeli-Arab MKs from the Balad faction met last Tuesday with the families of 10 Palestinians who were killed while carrying out murderous attacks in Jerusalem. Their actions sparked a furor and denunciations from across the political spectrum. The meeting also triggered the regular calls of incitement from the right and its associates in the “center” to take steps against these MKs and even oust them from the Knesset.

Directing anger at the MKs who met the families – who aren’t to blame for their sons’ acts – obscures the real issue: holding the assailants’ bodies and preventing their burial.

The bodies that haven’t been returned are being held by the police, in accordance with the instructions of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, because they are residents of East Jerusalem. This is in contrast to the opinion of Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and senior defense officials. They believe that holding the bodies will not only fail to prevent terror, but will even exacerbate it by eliciting retaliation acts.

Several weeks ago, on Ya’alon’s command, the IDF returned the bodies of all the West Bank terrorists it was holding. On Friday, the bodies of the three gunmen from Qabatiyah, who killed Border Policewoman Hadar Cohen last Wednesday, were also returned.

The different policy practiced by the police and the IDF, based solely on the assailant’s place of residence, reflects Erdan’s internal party populism. He is eager to show his Likud party members that he is “doing something” about the attacks, which have become part of the daily routine in recent months.

There is no element of deterrence in keeping the bodies from the families. People who carry out an attack know their chances of survival are zero, but they don’t pity their families and will not be persuaded to change their mind even to spare their loved ones. The authorities’ vindictiveness against the families, by delaying the bodies’ burial, is nothing but unnecessary abuse that is typical of every collective punishment.

This affair is symptomatic of the ministers’ incompetence and the leadership vacuum. They keep finding new scapegoats as excuses for their failures. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prefers to ignore the local context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the settlements and the occupation, sticking to the mantra that the attacks are part of a global Islamic terror trend.

Erdan has identified Israel’s real enemies: the social networks, headed by Facebook. If only social media chatter among Palestinian youth could be silenced, the terror attacks would stop and there will be no more bodies to hold or return.

The two peoples, living in distress and dread, are crying out for a sober, farsighted leadership that offers more effective solutions than holding onto bodies. Such a leadership doesn’t exist at the moment.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


בנימין נתניהו השקת ספר

Netanyahu’s Israel Is About to Slam the Door on the Diaspora

עדי שטרן

Head of Israel’s Top Art Academy Leads a Quiet Revolution

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

Skyscrapers in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv.

Israel May Have Caught the Worst American Disease, New Research Shows

ג'אמיל דקוור

Why the Head of ACLU’s Human Rights Program Has Regrets About Emigrating From Israel


Netanyahu’s Election Win Dealt a Grievous Blow to Judaism