Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir on Friday slammed the decision to hand over the bodies of three terrorists to the Palestinian Authority and vowed to continue boycotting Knesset votes until the governing coalition assumes a more hardline approach.
Ben-Gvir described Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s decision to return the three bodies as “a grave mistake that will cost us dearly,” and called for a change in approach.
“It is not too late to implement a powerful and offensive security policy. Otzma Yehudit will continue to be absent from [Knesset] votes until the Israeli government changes course and begins to uphold the policy for which it was elected,” said Ben-Gvir.
The P.A. announced earlier Friday that Jerusalem had handed over the bodies of Jihad Shami, 24, Otman Shami, 22, and Mohammed Dabiq, 18, whom the IDF killed on March 12 after they opened fire on soldiers.
They were all members of the Nablus-based Lions’ Den terrorist group.
In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party issued a statement reiterating that “the prime minister, defense minister, the IDF and the security forces are the ones who manage the complex security events facing the State of Israel. The prime minister decides which parties are involved in the discussions, and if this is not acceptable to Minister Ben-Gvir, he does not have to remain in the government.”
A senior source close to Netanyahu shortly thereafter told the media that the premier is willing to explore bringing National Unity Party head Benny Gantz into the coalition.
Last week’s rocket barrage from the Gaza Strip sparked the intra-coalition fighting, with Ben-Gvir‘s Otzma Yehudit announcing that the party’s MKs would boycott coalition votes after he wasn’t invited to a situational assessment meeting during the conflagration.
Ben-Gvir told reporters at the time: “Prime Minister [Netanyahu], if you don’t want Otzma Yehudit, you’re invited to fire us. If you don’t want a fully right-wing government, you’re welcome to send us home.”