The Israel Prison Service (IPS) has rejected an order by extreme far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to close prison bakeries offering fresh bread to Palestinian inmates. According to Israeli Channel 13 TV, the IPS does not understand the logic or feasibility of shutting the bakeries down.
"It seems that this measure is more a populist move than a real effort to make conditions harder for the prisoners," said the IPS.
Ben-Gvir's office said that the move was aimed at denying "benefits and indulgences to terrorists" in Israel, which it said were denied to regular prisoners. Israel Hayom reported that Ben-Gvir "went crazy" after learning of the existence of the bakeries. "Prisoners cannot get such a privilege," he was quoted as saying. "How can they get fresh bread every day? What is this absurdity?"
Since taking on the ministerial role late last year, Ben-Gvir has provoked controversy both in Israel and abroad by pushing for hard-line reforms to the judiciary and security establishment. He has called for the death penalty for Palestinians who Israel considers to be "terrorists", and has pledged to make the conditions more difficult for Palestinian prisoners.
Early this week, the IPS started transferring prisoners from one prison to another and imposed many restrictions on them.
"The situation in prison over the past couple of weeks has been terrible," the Commissioner of Palestinian Prisoner Affairs, Hassan Abed Rabbu, told Middle East Eye. "Israeli media are talking about transferring 2,000 prisoners between jails. It is a strategy to weaken and destabilise Palestinian resistance within the prisons."
According to rights groups, there are currently more than 4,700 Palestinians prisoner in Israeli jails, including 29 women and 150 children.