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Gallant nixes bill barring return of terrorist remains

The bill, sponsored by Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo, was withdrawn after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned it could be detrimental to Israel's security .

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Knesset, March 22, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Knesset, March 22, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Legislation that would prohibit the transfer of terrorists’ remains to their families or organizations has been effectively vetoed by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Israel Hayom reported on Wednesday.

The bill stipulates that people killed while or as a consequence of carrying out terrorist acts are to be buried in special cemeteries rather than handed back. The bill also allows the prime minister to waive the provisions under special circumstances. 

Knesset member Eliyahu Revivo (Likud), who sponsored the bill, attempted to bring it to a vote in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation this coming Sunday, so that it could advance to the Knesset floor for a preliminary reading the following Wednesday. But in recent days, Gallant, who had made it clear he is vehemently opposed to the bill, had it removed from the forum’s agenda, according to Israel Hayom

The draft legislation enjoys broad support within the coalition and even among some members of the opposition, according to the report. The previous Knesset saw a similar measure introduced by now-Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and his Religious Zionist Party faction. MK Ze’ev Elkin and Sharren Haskel of the National Unity Party reintroduced it during the current Knesset despite being in the opposition.

Sources privy to the efforts to pass the new bill say Gallant has been telling colleagues in the coalition that the measure is unlikely to achieve its goal and will only exacerbate tensions. 

The bill’s primary objective is to prevent the glorification of terrorists during their funerals, which could result in incitement to avenge their death and carry out copycat attacks. 

The bill’s preface states that “over the past several years we have witnessed a growing trend under which terrorist attacks are followed by praise, support and encouragement for the act, the perpetrator, the organization he was affiliated with and the ideology it espouses. This manifests itself primarily when the funerals are held for the attackers.”

It goes on to say that “on more than one occasion, banners, speeches and shouts [at those events] endorse the attack and call for more such acts.” It notes that “this trend has the potential to pose a real danger to the public,” adding that this is why terrorists’ remains are often withheld. 

Gallant’s office told Israel Hayom that “terrorists’ remains are not something that affects terrorist groups in prisoner swap deals, except in rare cases involving Hamas attackers.” It added that “for such cases we already have contingencies, and thus there is no need for a bill on this matter.” 

Revivo’s office said in response that, “My approach is that such a step is needed. However, as a team player, I am fully aware that without the backing of the defense minister, such a bill has no chance of advancing. That is why I agreed to have it taken off the legislative agenda.”  

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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