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.
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