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Palestinian prisoners at heart of Israel’s elections

Israeli forces make Palestinian prisoners line up in their cell [Palestine Info Center/Twitter]

Israeli Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, announced a series of escalatory measures that could be described as a declaration of war against prisoners. He recommended that the living conditions of Palestinian prisoners be intensified without any difference between old or young, those who are imprisoned for a month or 30 years, or those affiliated with Fatah, Hamas, or any other organisation. He decided to cancel the divided sections for Fatah and Hamas, or what he called it the autonomy enjoyed by the prisoners. This is a deliberate exaggeration in order justify his attack on the prisoners.

The measures announced by Erdan face two main obstacles. The first is a professional obstacle and the second and more important obstacle is a security one. As for the professional obstacle, it is related to the actual ability to implement these procedures after calculating the profit, loss, cost and benefit. Most of these measures will cost Israel millions of dollars and manpower, while the desired benefits most likely do not go beyond moral and psychological purposes for the Israeli public, primarily revenge and torturing prisoners.

Stopping the prisoners from showering inside their rooms and preventing them from cooking inside these rooms requires new and very expensive infrastructure. Therefore, if this measure is approved, implementing it may take at least two or three years, in addition to the employment of more guards. The second obstacle in the face of Erdan’s announcement is the security hindrance as these measures are likely to face objection and protests from the prisoners. This may possibly lead to hunger strikes in the prisons and widespread protests in the West Bank. This is exactly what prompted the Israeli security agencies, beginning with the army and Shin Bet, to express their objection to Erdan’s “childish” measures.

READ: Israel’s plan to ‘worsen conditions’ for Palestinian prisoners is an opportunity for unity

I should point out the position of the prison system towards minister Erdan’s plan can be summed up as a warning against the results of implementing this plan on the security situation in prisons. It did however state that it is able to implement Erdan’s instructions if approved by the government and all financial expenses and human resources are approved.

In addition to this, former senior prison officials, including the former matron of the Hadarim prison and former prison intelligence chief, had reservations about the measures and the way they were presented in a showy press conference by the highest level in internal security. A former warden of Hadarim prison in Dakar Eilat, also expressed his reservations, pointing out that security prisoners keep the blocks and cells clean and deliberately refrain from wasting water.

Both officials referred to the importance of having a spokesman for the prisoners, regardless of the title of the position recommended by Erdan’s committee.

Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett [HNM News/Facebook]

Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett [HNM News/Facebook]

It is worth noting that the committee formed by Erdan to study the living conditions of prisoners, the recommendations of which he adopted, is a committee consisting of former senior leaders in the prison service, who had prominent and famous roles in formulating and strengthening the current form of prisoner life in Israeli prisons, along with the rules of conduct between prisoners and guards. This includes Avi Vaknin, former warden of Beersheba Prison and head of Israel’s Prison Services Southern Block and another former head of prison intelligence. Why did these individuals recommend adverse measures that tear apart everything they contributed to the construction and formulation of? Is this related to the wishes and aspirations of those who tasked them with this?

The Palestinian prisoners have become material for election propaganda in Israel, and a source of incitement and the recruitment of votes for the ever-raging election battle in Israel. A few days ago, cabinet ministers Shaked and Bennett announced the formation of a new party, raising the banner of war against the prisoners and their release. Before them, former defence minister Lieberman sought to issue a law to execute prisoners and then cut the salaries and pensions of their families. Today it’s the turn of minister Erdan to try his luck and draw some of the prisoners’ blood.

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 3 January 2019

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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