Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said benefits and privileges enjoyed by terrorists in Israeli prisons would be revoked following Hamas' refusal Thursday to allow the International Red Cross to visit kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.
“I have decided to change Israel’s policy toward terrorists siting in Israeli jails," Netanyahu said at the closing event of the Israeli President's conference.
Netanyahu said he was committed to upholding Israeli and international law and conventions, but not exceeding their strict requirements. A bill was previously proposed to worsen prison conditions for terror prisoners, but was rejected by the Netanyahu government.
"We are not committed to anything beyond that. As such the magnanimous conditions in the Israeli jails will end,” Netanyahu explained.
Netanyahu did not provide a comprehensive overview of the changes he intends to implement vis-a-vis terrorist prisoners. However, he did say he planned to stop the “absurd practice" of allowing “murderers in jail” to sign up for advanced academic degrees.
“There will be no more Masters' for murder, or doctors of terror,” Netanyahu said, generating loud applause and cheers from the conference attendees. “That party is over.”
“I believe that if we all place public, political pressure on Hamas, we will advance Gilad’s release,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also praised leaders in the US, France, Britain and Italy who in recent days demanded that Hamas let the Red Cross visit Schalit.
Hamas last week rejected an unprecedented deal from Egypt, Israel, France, and Germany for Schalit's release.
"The Red Cross should not get involved in Israeli security games aimed at reaching Schalit. It should take a stand that results in ending the suffering of Palestinian prisoners," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.
In an uncharacteristic public appeal, the ICRC said said Schalit's family had the right under international law to be in contact with their 24-year-old son, held incommunicado since his capture on June 25, 2006.
"Because there has been no sign of life from Mr. Schalit for almost two years, the ICRC is now demanding that Hamas prove that he is alive," the Geneva-based ICRC said.
The ICRC also reiterated its long-standing request to visit Schalit in custody.
"The total absence of information concerning Mr. Schalit is completely unacceptable," ICRC Director-General Yves Daccord said in a statement.
"We don't know anything about his conditions of detention. But from information available to us we have serious concerns about his fate," Jean-Pierre Schaerer, head of the ICRC delegation in Israel, told Reuters.
"He is completely isolated."