After ongoing criticism about the relatively easy conditions terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails face, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Wednesday that he would set up a public committee that will look at the specific privileges terrorists receive in prison. “Anyone who tries to commit an act of terror for religious or nationalistic reasons needs to understand that he will either pay for that act with his life, or find himself marking many years in prison.”
That prison sentences can be long is not a matter of dispute – but it is what happens during a terrorist’s term in prison that is. Many on the right, as well as families of victims of terror, have decried the “coddling” environment for terrorists in Israeli prisons, especially compared to the conditions Israelis have faced when held by Hamas and other terror groups. The latest uproar occurred earlier this month, when groups representing terrorists sued the Prisons Service for a decision to ban terrorists from viewing an upcoming sports event.
Erdan himself ordered that ban, saying that it was fully justified, despite a long-standing policy by the Prisons Service to allow terrorists to watch the event. “My order is designed to worsen the conditions of terrorists, to provide them with no more than the minimum needed,” Erdan said. “We have no intention of allowing Hamas terrorists to enjoy themselves as long as the terror group is holding the remains of IDF soldiers, as well as live Israeli kidnappers.”
Speaking Wednesday, Erdan said that many Palestinians saw Israeli prisons as a better alternative to remaining free. “A study that we did among security prisoners held by Israel shows that many of them preferred to die or to be captured by Israel instead of continuing to deal with the their family or economic issues at home. It sounds strange, but it’s true. We must work to reduce the ‘rewards’ that attract terrorists to Israeli prisons, thus reducing one of the motivations for terrorists to commit acts that would land them in prison,” Erdan said. The committee, he said, will “examine ways to remove all the special privileges that have accrued to security prisoners over the years, and leave them with a minimum of privileges, based on international law and custom.”
Matan Peleg, head of the Im Tirzu terror victims’ rights organization, said that the “congratulates Erdan for taking this necessary and important step. The cries of the families of terror victims, and the efforts of Im Tirzu and other organizations in recent months have not been in vain. I truly hope that this committee will put an end to the privileges terrorists receive in prisons. This is an important day in the fight against terror.”