Fatah Inmates to Haaretz: Israeli Prison Plan Could Lead to Unrest in the West Bank

Measures including reducing family visits and removing prison canteens are 'ticking time bomb,' Fatah prison leaders warn, while also criticizing the delivery of Qatar money to Gaza about 10 days ago

File photo: Security prisoners at Ramle Prison in Israel.
Nir Kafri

Fatah prison leaders are warning Israel not to worsen conditions for Palestinian security prisoners, calling such a move a “ticking time bomb that could blow up the whole region.”

The prisoners were referring to recommendations by a committee set up by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to reduce family visits, cancel separate prison wings for Hamas and Fatah prisoners and remove prison canteens. Leaders of the prisoners organization warn that if these recommendations are implemented, it could lead to a significant escalation in the West Bank and Gaza.

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“Fatah prisoners influence more than 60 percent of the West Bank and Gaza population and have extensive connections with the security organizations,” they say. “Since 2008 the prisoners have adopted a policy of dialogue but if they are pushed into a corner, there will be big problems in Gaza and the West Bank.

“Just last year the security services returned 105 Israelis who mistakenly entered West Bank cities. Imagine if the committee’s recommendations are implemented: How will the Palestinian security forces deal with every Israeli who gets lost in the West Bank then?” they ask.

“If the conditions go back to what they were before the first intifada, it will only increase the hatred and incitement" both inside and outside prison, they warned.

The prisoners also speculated that “The proposals are meant for bargaining purposes with Hamas. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have already announced that they won’t sit by and will renege on any agreement for quiet, so the proposal to merge the prisoners from all the factions will turn into attacks and violence outside the prison walls.”

The Fatah prisoner leaders are chosen in part by elections held every few months. They are highly regarded and influential in Palestinian society and are in contact with the Palestinian Authority leadership.

Many Fatah prison leaders lashed out at the $15 million from Qatar that was transferred to Gaza about 10 days ago. “The Israeli government calls Hamas a terror state and suddenly it decides to support terror,” say the prisoner leaders. “If Israel were to discover that the Palestinian Authority was transferring salaries to [Hamas leader] Yihya Sinwar and [its military wing] Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, it would denounce it for supporting terror."

Referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, they added "Abu Mazen demanded that the funds not be transferred to Hamas until it recognized the PA’s legitimacy and committed to laying down its arms, for there to be one law and one weapon in the hands of the PA. But [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu chose a different formula. Now the Qatari money will boost Hamas’ power and increase its arsenal and its ability to develop rockets with Iranian backing.”

The prisoner leaders also say that the money transfer to Hamas will worsen the humanitarian situation in Gaza, contrary to its intended purpose. “The Hamas media is calling it a victory, but what will really happen is that Hamas will focus on aiding its people with this money. The Muslim Brotherhood see themselves as patrons and all who oppose them as subjects and slaves.” They add: “There will soon be three social classes in Gaza: an elite class comprised of Hamas officials, a middle class comprised of close associates and supporters and a third group of independents or those who are part of other factions and will be at the bottom of society.”

The prisoner leaders say that, unlike Hamas, the PA and the PLO have accepted that “Israel exists and cannot be wiped off the map” and that therefore a diplomatic solution based on two states for two peoples must be reached.

“The ultimate goal of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood is to establish an Islamic state that gives the appearance of seeking peace but whose real goal is to gain power and develop weapons that will enable it to seize all of historical Palestine, including Haifa and Jaffa,” they say.