“This campaign has been very successful for us,” a major activist, Isa Amar, told Ynet. “One of the high points was, without doubt, the protest on Wednesday, to which hundreds of Palestinians alongside clan leaders, to demand the return of the bodies.”
The protest Amar speaks of was unique. Hundreds of Palestinians came to a checkpoint in Hebron. At first they confronted security forces there, but after a few minutes the leaders managed to calm the crowd and began negotiating for the return of the bodies on the spot.
Two days later, five bodies of Hebron terrorists were given back to their families. To Israel’s chagrin, they were given lavish funerals and official PA ceremonies. Now, Israel is demanding that the funerals take place at night, so that the burials don’t become a public spectacle.
Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon said on Sunday morning that returning the bodies will continue if there’s a guarantee of the funerals being quiet and unostentatious. The initial decision by the Cabinet was to freeze all returns of terrorist bodies. Since then, the unrest among Palestinians has been a discussion point, reigniting discussions. Ya’alon has announced that if the relative quiet continues, Israel will continue returning bodies. If not, he says, they’ll be buried in Israel.
People in Hebron are, of course, opposed to the demand regarding night funerals. “The families are saying something very simple: Our children are not thieves and we don’t need to bury them in hiding at night. It doesn’t make sense for someone to agree to that,” says Amar.
He continues, “Israeli society needs to understand that returning the bodies has benefits to them as well, such as downgrading the tensions and the anger in Hebron. These people perpetrated terror attacks and paid for it with their lives. How can you punish them further? Their families didn’t encourage them and so the families don’t need to be punished. The bodies need to be returned to them.”
So far, negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are stalled on the issue. On Sunday afternoon, the funerals of two terrorists from the West bank villages of Sai’r and Tzurif, who perpetrated stabbing attacks. Since they took place inside the villages, they didn’t attract large crowds.
According to Amar, if the terrorists’ families agree to get the bodies at night and budy them immediately afterward, no one in Hebron will oppose them, since the clan leaders have a very strong effect on the Hebron public, unlike in other West Bank areas.
“I think the Shin-Bet understand that holding the bodies in Israel just intensifies anger in the city,” he says. “If Israel keeps holding the bodies, the protesters might lose their patience, there’ll be an escalation and the protests will turn violent, even though we’ve asked everyone to keep the protests peaceful.”