With Gilad Shalit in terrorist captivity for 1,008 days now, the government has finally begun to take steps to reduce the privileges granted to Arab terrorists in Israeli jails.
The Cabinet voted on Sunday to restrict some of the rights, effective immediately, and to begin the legislative process to remove other rights. The ministers thus accepted the recommendations made by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and the Israel Prison Service.
Minister Friedmann was appointed two weeks ago to head a committee looking into if and how to downgrade the prison condition of Arab terrorists, and to bring them closer to those of Hamas-captive IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who is being held captive by Hamas. Friedmann presented the recommendations at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting, the last under Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. “We’re the only democracy in the region,” Minister Friedmann told his fellow outgoing Cabinet members, “but there’s no reason why we have to be the only suckers as well. We must show strength.”
The recommendations include the removal of such rights as academic study courses by correspondence, phone calls, newspapers and radio privileges, as well as a reduction in canteen money. Visits to the prisoners by the Red Cross and family members cannot be prevented, Friedmann said, as they are governed by international law.
Shalit has never once been visited by the international body or by his family.
Visits to the terrorists by lawyers, as well as administrative releases, can be curtailed or removed only by special legislation, which the Cabinet voted to begin.
Outgoing Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) said that compared with Gilad Shalit's conditions, "terrorists in Israeli prisons can feel that they are in summer camp."
Hamas reacted with outrage to Israel’s plan to reduce prisoners’ privileges. The terrorist group originally threatened to harm Shalit if the changes were implemented, but its latest reaction said only that Israel was “displaying weakness.”
The terrorist prisoners themselves were said to be considering taking extreme measures, including unlimited hunger strikes, if their privileges were stripped.
Next Minister Takes Tough Stance
MK Yitzchak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu), who is slated to become the next Public Security Minister, has come out in favor of worsening the terrorists’ jail conditions. “Until we see Gilad Shalit at home,” he has said, “the terrorists won’t see their families either.” Aharonovitch has also said that he does not think that Israel must agree to secure Shalit’s freedom "at any price."
Shabak Chief: Arms Smuggling into Gaza Continues
Also at the Cabinet meeting, General Security Service head Yuval Diskin said that despite some Egyptian efforts to stop arms smuggling into Gaza, 22 tons of dynamite and 45 tons of raw materials for the production of arms and ammunition have been smuggled into Gaza in the past ten weeks. He said that since the end of Operation Cast Lead, dozens of rockets, hundreds of mortar shells and dozens of anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles have been smuggled into Gaza.
Dichter further said that Hamas is currently actively enforcing a “no rockets” policy against Israel, while it considers whether to re-ignite a campaign of terrorism against Israel. He said the main interest of Hamas at present is to “rebuild the Gaza Strip" following Operation Cast Lead.