MKs argued heatedly about a bill to force-feed prisoners on hunger strike, as it was prepared for a plenum final vote in the Knesset Interior Committee Monday.
Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) called two meetings on the legislation in one day, aiming to pass it into law as soon as possible, probably next Monday.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that the rationale behind the bill is “to prevent prisoners from pressuring the State of Israel through hunger strikes.”
Regev commented at the meeting’s opening that if force-feeding is a problem, she’d rather let the prisoners die.
There are currently 287 prisoners who refuse to eat, and 82 are in hospitals. Their goal, Aharonovitch explained, is to free those who are in administrative detention.
In addition, he said, it is in the interest of the government not to let the prisoners die from the hunger strike.
Since, according to law, it is the Prison Services’ responsibility to take care of prisoners’ wellbeing, the bill will allow courts to order a doctor to force-feed prisoners, whose lives are in danger, through an IV or gastrostomy feeding tube.
Aharonovitch also expressed his opinion that the bill does not break international law.
MK Ahmed Tibi (UALTa’al), a doctor, asked the minister if he is aware of the health risks in force-feeding and pointed out that this measure has killed prisoners.
MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) shouted to Aharonovitch: “We don’t trust you!” Regev proceeded to call Zoabi a traitor, recalling her participation in the 2010 Gaza flotilla.
Zoabi demanded an apology and shouted to Regev: “Your country advocates terror.”
“You deserve to be punished and you shouldn’t be here [in the Knesset],” Regev shouted back.
MK Dov Hanin (Hadash) said the bill is “immoral and goes against medical ethics and any rational explanation,” as well as international law and Israeli law and is populist.
According to MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), the bill would make Israel like thirdworld countries that torture prisoners.
MK Yifat Kariv (Yesh Atid) pointed out that Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein went on hunger strike when he was Soviet prison.
Israel Medical Association chairman Leonid Idelman also said the bill is not ethical and is impossible to implement.
“You can’t put a gastrostomy feeding tube in someone every day and you can’t prevent him from moving a hand with an IV in it,” Idelman explained. “Israeli doctors will not cooperate with this bill.”
In the second meeting on the bill on Monday afternoon, one MK defended the bill.
MK David Tsur (Hatnua) said the bill balances respect for individual rights with the need to protect prisoners from harm, and is not political.
Zandberg pointed to the phrases “national security” and “public safety” as proof that the bill is political.
Also Monday, the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health committee approved for its second and third (final) reading legislation that would cut National Insurance Institute payments to prisoners freed in diplomatic negotiations.
According to the bill, a prisoner who was sentenced with over 10 years in jail for nationalist crimes, and who is freed before finishing his or her sentence will not get financial benefits like unemployment, a pension or work-injury compensation, until the date on which he was supposed to leave prison.
“It’s unfortunate that, until now, murderers and terrorists could get pension payments from the government,” Labor, Welfare and Health committee chairman Haim Katz (Likud Beytenu) said. “Still, it’s better late than never.”
Coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu) who proposed the bill with MK Robert Ilatov (Likud Beytenu), said “we were living in a bizarre reality in which Israel had to free terrorists and murderers, and when they left jail they got checks from the government so their lives would be more comfortable.”