While an Arab MK underwent questioning for smuggling cell phones to security prisoners, the Knesset House Committee voted on Tuesday to restrict visits by their colleagues to such inmates.
The committee explained the reason for the ban is that visits by elected officials give encouragement and support to the terrorists behind bars.
The committee also determined that the visits are not protected by parliamentary immunity because of potential damage to national security.
However, the committee did allow for exceptions. It adopted the initiative of Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to establish a protocol for visits to security prisoners through coordination between the Speaker of the Knesset, the head of the Housing Committee and the head of the State Control Committee. According to the Erdan’s proposal, Knesset delegations would be permitted to see security prisoners in order to maintain Knesset supervision over prison conditions.
Meanwhile, MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) admitted to members of the Lahav 433 special police investigative unit that he had smuggled cellphones and coded messages to terrorist inmates of an Israeli prison. But claimed that he was motivated by “humanitarian and moral activism” and that the police summons was part of a “witch hunt” against him and his party.
MK Avi Dichter (Likud), the Shin Bet director who set up Lahav 433 and is now the Chairman of Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said on Tuesday morning that ”Ghattas must not set foot in the Knesset. He’s likely to smuggle in weapons that could bring harm to elected officials.”
”Ghattas is a real risk,” Dichter insisted. “Members of Knesset enjoy immunity not only when they visit terrorists in prisons, but also when they enter the Knesset with no inspection. Mobile phones are not just tools of speech, but can also be weapons that terrorists can use in their attacks.”