Skip to main content

Netanyahu accuses Palestinian Israeli MPs of 'comforting families of terrorists'

Israeli PM and speaker of Knesset to file complaints against three Balad MPs who met with families of Palestinians killed in alleged attacks
Basel Ghattas and other Balud members called for Israel to return the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces (AFP)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the speaker of the Israeli parliament are to file complaints against three Palestinian Israeli politicians who met with relatives of Palestinians killed while allegedly carrying out attacks on Israelis.

The Israeli Knesset said in a statement on Friday that Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Netanyhu would take the "unprecedented step" of filing personal complaints against the three with the house's ethics committee.

Basel Ghattas, Jamal Zahalka and Hanin Zuabi, all parliamentary representatives of the Balad party, attended a meeting on Tuesday initiated by a Palestinian committee seeking to retrieve the bodies of attackers killed at the scene by Israeli security forces.

"Members of Knesset (parliament) who go to comfort the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis do not deserve to be in the Israeli Knesset," Netanyahu said in a statement late on Thursday.

"I have asked the speaker of the Knesset and the attorney general to examine what steps can be taken against them," he said.

A wave of violence since October has killed at least 26 Israelis, as well as an American and an Eritrean.

At the same time, 164 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces, most while allegedly carrying out attacks but others during clashes and demonstrations.

Israel has returned the bodies of some attackers but is retaining others.

The remains of assailants from the occupied West Bank, for which the Israeli army is responsible, have been returned for burial in accordance with Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon's view that retaining them would further fuel tensions.

But Israel has kept the bodies of 10 Palestinians from Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, which is under the authority of Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who says he wants to avoid funerals becoming Palestinian political rallies.

Palestinians say withholding the bodies is a form of collective punishment.

In a statement on Friday, Balad said the non-delivery of bodies was "an an act of revenge" against the families of attackers.

It said the meeting was held to retrieve bodies withheld "in contravention of all international and humanitarian laws and norms".

Palestinian-Israeli rights group Adalah said the relatives of several Palestinians killed in attacks attended, but did not elaborate.

Balad said they included the father of Bahaa Alyan, who in October boarded a bus in Jerusalem with a friend, shooting and stabbing passengers and killing three people. 

Alyan was shot dead and Israel later demolished his family home as punishment. The friend was arrested.

When it does release Palestinian bodies for burial, Israel imposes conditions such as nighttime funerals with few mourners. 

Families are also sometimes made to pay a deposit of several thousand shekels (hundreds of dollars), which is lost if the funeral does not pass quietly.

Last month Alyan's father Mohammed said he would not submit to such demands, and would not bury his son outside Jerusalem.

Balad said its representatives had passed the families' requests on to Erdan.

Palestinian Israelis, who represent about 18 percent of Israel's population, are the descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.

Although they have Israeli citizenship, they largely see themselves as Palestinians.

Yaalon, of Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, said that Balad represented a "small and separatist minority among Israeli Arabs".

"The radical minority that is trying to incite and divide must be condemned and removed from our midst," he said.

Itzik Shmuli, of the main opposition Zionist Union, also said that his party "totally condemned" such contacts.

"It's an act that simply gives a helping hand to terrorism," he told Israeli public radio on Friday.

"It encourages attacks against innocent Israeli citizens."

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.