Security prisoners have it too good, minister says, promising crackdown

Gilad Erdan convenes panel to recommend bare minimum that can be provided inmates, in bid to pressure Hamas to release captive Israelis, disincentivize terror

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office in Bnei Brak, Israel, October 26, 2017. (Ariel Schalit/AP)
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, in his office in Bnei Brak, Israel, October 26, 2017. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is looking to remove any privileges granted to Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails, 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.

Erdan announced Wednesday the formation of a public committee to reexamine the conditions of the prisoners’ incarceration.

The body will be tasked with recommending the bare minimum Israel can provide security prisoners without running afoul of the law.

Speaking at a counterterrorism conference in Herzliya, Erdan said, “Anyone planning on carrying out a terror attack must know they will pay for it with their lives, or rot for many years in prison.”

Security prisoners during a visiting session in the Ofer Prison facility near Ramallah, August 20, 2008. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

He added 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.

Last month, Erdan ordered that Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails would not be allowed to watch televised games from the World Cup soccer competition.

“I have no intention of allowing Hamas terrorists to watch the World Cup, at a time when the bodies of our soldiers are being held in Gaza, together with our kidnapped citizens,” Erdan told prisons service chief Ofra Klinger.

The minister convened legal experts to examine ways to change regulations in order to prevent security prisoners from watching specific TV channels. The move could be difficult to implement, as security prisoners and other detainees are not kept separated, and current regulations give detainees a right to watch the global soccer championship.

“Whoever has left the family of nations and and chosen the culture of murder and terror should not enjoy an international sports competition that brings together people from all over the world,” the minister said at the time.

“We will continue to exercise a heavy hand toward prisoners from the terror organization Hamas, and will also look at making things harder for security prisoners from other organizations,” he promised.

The idea of depriving security prisoners of World Cup broadcasts came from 74 bereaved families belonging to the “Choosing Life” forum, who said they hoped Erdan’s move would be the first in a series to create a “deterrent package” and to “prevent the terrorists who murdered our loved ones from continuing to enjoy themselves in prison.”

During the Gaza war in the summer of 2014, Hamas captured the remains of two Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

In the following year, two apparently mentally ill Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, entered the Gaza Strip of their own volition. They are believed to be captives of Hamas.

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