Anger at Arab Israeli MPs who met relatives of attackers
JERUSALEM (AP) — Steps should be taken against three Arab members of Israel's parliament who met this week with families of Palestinians who committed deadly attacks against civilians and security personnel, Israel's prime minister said Thursday.
Israeli media reports said the families asked for their relatives' bodies to be released to them, and held a moment of silence to honor the "martyrs."
"Members of Knesset who go to comfort the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis do not deserve to be in the Israeli Knesset," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "I have asked the Speaker of the Knesset to examine what steps can be taken against them."
Israel is struggling to combat almost five months of near-daily Palestinian attacks on civilians and soldiers that have killed 27 Israelis in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming assaults. Meanwhile, some 154 Palestinians, the majority of whom Israel says were attackers, have been killed by Israeli forces.
The Arab lawmakers from the Joint List, an alliance of Arab-backed parties, met with the Palestinian families on Tuesday.
Among them was the father of a Palestinian who on Oct. 13, 2015 carried out one of the deadliest attacks in recent months, Israeli media reported. Two Palestinian men boarded a bus in Jerusalem that day and began shooting and stabbing passengers, while another assailant rammed a car into a bus station before stabbing bystanders. Three Israelis were killed and several other people were wounded.
The Arab parliamentarians, Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalka, reportedly said they would help the families get back the bodies of their family members.
Israel has said it is holding the attackers' bodies due to security concerns. The issue has become a sore point with Palestinians. Posters of the dead are plastered on walls in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, and residents hold frequent demonstrations calling for the bodies' release. About two dozen bodies were transferred to the Palestinians last month.
The three Arab lawmakers have angered mainstream Israelis before. Zoabi boycotted the playing of the national anthem when she was sworn into Israel's parliament.
Israel's Arabs make up a fifth of the country's 8.4 million people. They enjoy full citizen rights but often face unfair treatment in areas such as housing and employment opportunities. They are often accused of divided loyalties and of identifying more with their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza than with Israel.
The latest bloodshed erupted in mid-September over tensions at the most sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, sacred to both Jews and Muslims.
Israel says the ongoing violence is fueled by a campaign of Palestinian incitement by political and religious leaders. Palestinians say it stems from frustration at nearly five decades of Israeli rule and the lack of hope of gaining independence.