Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has appointed a ministerial committee to see if it possible to downgrade the prison condition of Arab terrorists to those of Gilad Shalit in captivity. Terror victim expert Meir Indor says Arab terrorists' conditions in Israeli prison are better than those of criminal convicts."
The new committee is to be headed by Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, and will convene today (Wednesday) for the first time to hear judicial opinions on the matter. A new government is expected to take office in the coming days, and it is not clear whether the committee will have time to formulate recommendations, and if so, whether the new government will adopt them.
Issues that will be considered include rights to receive visitors, phone calls and study courses, none of which Shalit has received in his 33 months in Hamas captivity.
The decision to consider downgrading the terrorists’ conditions was made in light of the failure to conclude a deal for the release of Shalit in exchange for up to 1,400 imprisoned Palestinian terrorists. Hamas demands 450 terrorists in the first stage, most of whom have murdered Jews, and another 950 more junior terrorists in subsequent stages. Hamas also has refused Israel’s condition that many of the terrorists from Judea and Samaria be expelled to Gaza or elsewhere.
Friedmann: Much Room to Downgrade
Minister Friedmann says he is of the opinion that the conditions under which the Arab security prisoners are being held “are way above the minimum. We can reduce the number of visitors they are allowed, control over visitors, phone calls, and monies they receive.”
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, a member of the committee, long ago informed the government of his opinion that depriving the terrorists of certain rights is illegal. The government accepted his opinion at the time, but the formation of the committee appears to be a sign that it is reconsidering.
A List of Terrorist Privileges
Meir Indor, of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, told Israel National News the extent of the privileges the imprisoned terrorists receive: "First of all, they are organized into committees, with commanders, as if they were prisoners of war. This means that the Prison Service deals with them only via their commanders and representatives. In addition, even though they are considered war criminals, they receive visits from the International Red Cross. They also receive many visits from lawyers, who often serve as couriers to bring messages back and forth. They receive many family visitors, even though the Red Cross does not require this, as well as phone calls, with some supervision. They are given the opportunity to study for high school matriculation, and also a university degree. In addition, I have heard that the Palestinian Authority deposits 1,200 shekels in their canteen accounts every month."
"In short," Indor concluded, "the conditions of an Arab terrorist in Israeli prison is better than those of a criminal convict in the same jail - and certainly many times better than the dungeon conditions to which Gilad Shalit is apparently treated."
Friedmann: Israel Need Not Cede Every Point to Hamas
Minister Friedmann shared with Ynet his opinion that Israel must take a tougher stance in its negotiations with Hamas over Gilad Shalit: “The Prime Minister went further than… what some of us think [should be done] regarding Shalit. There is an opinion that whatever demands Hamas makes must be accepted right away. This is incorrect and irresponsible. It has a high price regarding future kidnappings; the more we give in, the more kidnappings there will be. In addition, it has strategic ramifications, in that every far-reaching concession we make strengthens the radical elements and weakens those who are more moderate... What will do if they say they want Sderot in exchange for Shalit!? They are cruel and inflexible, but we must still remember that they can be negotiated with.”
Ben-Eliezer: Any Price
It will be recalled that Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) said not long ago, “We must be willing to pay any price – any price – for the return of Gilad Shalit.” He was criticized at the time by National Union MK Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh), who served under Ben-Eliezer in the army: “Can he possibly mean that we should pay 'any' price? I was a soldier under Fuad's command, and this is not the tough Fuad and responsible leader I knew. Should we give into everything they demand? Do we need to release 1,000 murderers and cause more bereaved families? A government must behave responsibly towards the entire country."