'The Party Is Over': Israeli Minister Announces Harsher Conditions for Palestinian Security Prisoners

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan vows to 'worsen' prisoners' conditions despite security agencies' opposition ■ Head of Palestinians Prisoners Club says statements are perceived as propaganda rather than actual policy

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

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced on Wednesday a "worsening" in the conditions of security prisoners in Israeli prisons, including rationing water supply, blocking Palestinian Authority funds, reducing autonomy given to Palestinian prisoners and ending separation of prisoners belonging to rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah.

Speaking at a press conference in central Israel, Erdan told reporters "The party is over," and added that his recommendations, which would be brought up with cabinet ministers, are to be confirmed over the next several weeks and implemented within a year. "We don't fear threats or strikes," he said in a press conference.

No Israeli security agency is "adamantly opposed" to the move, according to Erdan, despite a November discussion led by him, in which representatives of the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet objected it, citing a potential flare-up.

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"The Prison Service can handle any scenario" within its facilities, the minister said. "We mustn't be deterred by any attempt to scare us." He added that despite's Shin Bet's reservations, "there is no reason a security issue would be delayed."

He said the prisoners' water consumption is "crazy" and called it "another way for them to subvert the state, which must end." For that end, Erdan explained, shower time will be limited.

Erdan's recommendations are based on a report commissioned by him, composed by a special team in his ministry.

Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinians Prisoners Club, told Haaretz Erdan's statements are perceived as propaganda rather than actual policy. He said various proposals for limitations on Palestinian prisoners, including some of those proposed by Erdan, have already been put forward. 

He added that he personally supports ending the separation between Hamas and Fatah prisoners, which began in 2007. "We've always said prisons should be external to the schism" between Palestinian factions. 

Senior prisons service officials said that Erdan’s plan could be implemented, but there were those who were privately warning about the possible ramifications of the move. In discussions conducted by the National Security Council on the matter, objections were raised by both the Shin Bet security service and the army, who said it could lead to violence in the West Bank, because the security prisoners are admired by the public. There were also those who warned that there could be hunger strikes or violent events in the prisons.

Mixing the prisoners from the different Palestinian organizations is an option could be implemented almost immediately, the prisons service officials said. But other proposals, like moving showers out of the prison wings, restricting water usage or setting up general kitchens instead of allowing prisoners to cook their own food, would require more comprehensive plans and budgets. Security officials noted that security prisoners are already subject to various restrictions, and live in crowded conditions, as the High Court of Justice has noted.