Arab MKs Respond to Expulsion Move With Bill to Return Terrorists’ Bodies

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli soldiers and security forces stand near the body of a Palestinian attacker, at the scene of shooting attack at a checkpoint near Beit El on January 31, 2016. Photo by Flash90
Israeli soldiers and security forces stand guard at the scene of a shooting attack at a checkpoint near Beit El on Jan. 31. (Flash90)

As their response to the introduction of a bill – aimed at them – to expel MKs who meet with terrorists, Arab MKs have introduced a bill that will require Israel to return the bodies of terrorists killed in terror attacks to their families within five days. The bill was proposed Tuesday by United Arab List MKs Ahmed Tibi and Osama Sa’adi.

Several weeks ago, Arab MKs Hanin Zoabi, Jamal Zahalka, and Bassal Ghatam met in Ramallah with families of terrorists from Arab neighborhoods of Yerushalayim. The three met with the families of eleven terrorists just a few hours before the murder of Hadar Cohen, Hy”d, who was killed in a terror attack at the Damascus Gate in Yerushalayim on Feb. 3.

The three were suspended from activities in Knesset committees for a period of two to four months, but their meeting prompted Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to propose a bill to eject MKs who conduct such meetings, with the approval of 90 members of the plenum.

But the purpose of the meeting was not to praise or sympathize with terrorism, Ghatam said in an interview on Israel Radio after the suspension. “The purpose of the meeting was to discuss ways to prompt the government to return the bodies of the terrorists so they could get a decent burial,” he said. “We condemn terrorism and violence, and we believe that burying a body is a minimal humanitarian act that all people can agree with.”

At the beginning of the meeting, the three held a “moment of silence” for the “memory of the martyrs,” the terrorists who were killed by Israeli security officials in the course of their terror attacks, but Ghatam said that that, too, was misrepresented in Israeli media – and that the “moment of silence” was something that was conducted in the presence of mourners, no matter what the circumstances of their loved ones’ deaths.

In response, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan slammed the Arab MKs for their “hypocrisy. Where are the words of sympathy and the moments of silence by these people for the true victims – the Jews who were killed by these terrorists? Do you think we would ever see them visit with the families of Jewish victims to discuss the appropriate punishment for terrorism?”

Israel is currently holding the bodies of about ten terrorists who committed attacks and were killed by security forces. Erdan has said that he is opposed to returning the bodies to families because the funerals for the terrorists often turn into anti-Israel riots.

A discussion set for Tuesday in the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee on the expulsion bill was suspended by committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home). Speaking to Israel Radio, Slomiansky said that there was little point in advancing the bill to a vote if the members of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition were not prepared to support it. Several MKs in Kulanu have expressed misgivings at the bill, saying that since it was the voters who put them in the job, it should be the voters who remove MKs from their work as Knesset members.

Slomiansky said that he understands the issue, “but there have to be red lines. I think that everyone would agree that what Arab MKs did recently in meeting with families of terrorists crossed that red line.”