Terrorist Corpses for Peace?

A disturbing gesture by Netanyahu’s new dovish coalition.

In a strange peace offering, on Thursday Israel transferred the bodies of 91 terrorists to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. They had been interred in an enemy combatants’ cemetery in the Jordan Valley.

The purpose, for Israel, of retaining corpses of terrorists is for possible use in hostage deals. Doing so is also a deterrent, since terrorists are thereby denied burial by their own kith and kin in their home communities.

Mark Regev, spokesman for Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, explained: “It is our hope that this humanitarian gesture will serve both as a confidence-building measure and help get the peace process back on track. Israel is ready for the immediate resumption of peace talks without any preconditions whatsoever.”

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas has indeed boycotted peace talks with Israel since Netanyahu took office three years ago. Since then Netanyahu has made various generous offers to try and woo him back, including declaring himself in favor of a demilitarized Palestinian state and freezing settlement activity for ten months. Netanyahu recently also greatly expanded his coalition in a more dovish direction by adding the Kadima Party to it.

This latest move, though, is particularly hard to square with the notion of peace.

Palestinian affairs expert Khaled Abu Toameh reports that the deceased terrorists who were handed over included a suicide bomber who killed seven at Café Hillel in Jerusalem in 2003; two suicide bombers who killed 16 by blowing up two buses in Beersheva in 2004; an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber who killed five in an open-air market in Hadera in 2005—and many others of that ilk.

The corpses also included a vintage offering of the Fatah terrorists who perpetrated the Savoy Hotel attack in Tel Aviv in 1975, in which eight Israeli civilians and three soldiers died along with seven terrorists.

Another peculiar feature of this unsettling gambit is that of the 91 bodies, 12 were conveyed to Hamas-run Gaza, with which the Netanyahu government doesn’t even claim to be seeking a peace process.

Nor does it come as any surprise that, as Ynetnews reported:

Palestinians in Ramallah [in the West Bank] welcomed the bodies of terrorists….

Some 2,000 people, including the terrorists’ family members, attended a ceremony in the Mukataa.

The ceremony was attended by Palestinian leaders, including Abbas, as well as clerics headed by Jerusalem mufti Muhammad Hussein, who held a requiem.

…The terrorists’ relatives hailed the martyrs…. They also spoke out against Israel and cried “One million martyrs march to Jerusalem.”

…The terrorists’ coffins were covered in Palestinian flags and placed in the Mukataa’s central square. The seven terrorists who carried out the Savoy Hotel attack…were given a special honor.

Nor that in Gaza, as AP reported:

Thousands spilled into [the] streets for the funeral procession [for the 12 coffins]…. Two armed men, clad in black uniforms and bandanas, kissed the forehead of a suicide bomber’s mother as the vehicle carrying his body arrived. Her 21-year-old son, Ramzi Obaied of Islamic Jihad, killed 24 Israelis in a 1996 attack in Tel Aviv.

It appears, in brief, to be one of the world’s stranger peace-fests. AP added—also not exactly surprisingly—that “Abbas gave no sign that [Israel’s] gesture would persuade him to return to talks.”

It’s not clear what motivated the Netanyahu government to take this deeply problematic step. If the point was to demonstrate that Israel is open to talks while the Palestinian side is stonewalling, seemingly—after these three years—none except a hopelessly jaundiced party could doubt that anymore, and exhuming and handing over terrorists for full-honors funerals imparts a whiff of desperation if not kookiness.

The influence of Defense Minister Ehud Barak—a hawk on Iran but an unreconstructed 1990s-style dove on the Palestinian issue—likely played a role, along with the more dovish coloration of the new coalition. So did the desire to “compensate” Abbas for the Gilad Shalit deal, which made Hamas glorious in Palestinian eyes.

But, unfortunately, even a Likud-led government sometimes leaves it to independent activists and writers to make clear that “peace” and “the Palestinians” are oxymorons as long as the latter are practicing an anti-Israeli terror cult. If only Netanyahu and his cohorts emphasized that more instead of sacrificing the nation’s dignity on the altar of an obsessive courtship of Abbas.

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