Israel could soon significantly downgrade the prison conditions for Palestinian terror convicts, in a move likely to spark outrage among the prisoners and outside the prison walls.
Hadashot TV news published what it said were conclusions soon to be presented by a committee established four months ago by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, tasked with examining the possibility of worsening the prisoners’ conditions to the minimum required by international law.
Erdan announced the formation of the public committee in June in a bid to put pressure on the terror groups to which they belong, chiefly Hamas, to release Israeli citizens and soldiers’ bodies held in Gaza.
According to the report, the committee intends to recommend that Israel drastically reduce family visits for security prisoners, and stop letting them buy meat, fish, fruits and vegetables outside prison. They will also be prohibited from cooking meals in their wards and cells, and their food grinders and blenders are to be taken away.
Additionally, the Israel Prison Service will stop separating the prisoners according to the terror groups to which they belong, meaning that members of rivals factions such as Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad will be staying in the same ward and even in the same cells.
Other recommendations cited in the report include limiting the number of television channels available to the terrorists, closing the canteens in the wards, and canceling the status of “ward spokesperson” — meaning that only on a few, specific topics will a representative of the prisoners be allowed to speak on their behalf.
The report said the repercussions from such measures, if they are approved by Erdan, could be dramatic — both inside the prisons and in the Palestinian streets — and would require special preparation by the Prisons Service.
Speaking at a counterterrorism conference in Herzliya in June, Erdan said that studies carried out by the ministry concluded that some Palestinians commit terror attacks seeking to be caught and jailed as a way to run away from problems at home, and suggested that worsening conditions could help reduce possible “incentives” for carrying out attacks.
Palestinians have often criticized Israel’s treatment of terror convicts, and prisoners have launched several mass hunger strikes in recent years, seeking to improve their conditions. Last year, hundreds heeded a call by popular Fatah figure and convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti to go on a hunger strike.
The demands back then included the resumption of a second monthly visit by family members (a benefit that was canceled by the International Committee of the Red Cross due to budget cuts), the prevention of family meetings being canceled for security reasons, and the restoration of academic studies and matriculation exams to prisoners. Other demands included more television channels being available in cells and cell phones in security wings.
After 40 days, a deal was struck with Israeli authorities, which the prisoners claimed had met 80 percent of their demands.