‘Schalit bill' passes major hurdle

Legislation to press Hamas by toughening prisoner conditions.

May 24, 2010 07:01
2 minute read.
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gilad schalit 248 88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

After more than a year of delays and deal-making, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation paved the way on Sunday for a bill that its sponsors hope will speed up the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. The legislation, which would worsen the conditions of Hamas security prisoners as long as Schalit remains in captivity, passed the committee after a deal was worked out with the Prime Minister’s Office and relevant ministries.

The ministers said they would support the bill on the condition that they be consulted before it advances to its second reading in the Knesset, and that consultations continue with the Justice and Public Security ministries. In addition to concerns regarding High Court challenges, ministers skeptical of the bill suggested that sanctions against prisoners could lead to disorder in the prison system.

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Sunday’s vote secured coalition support for the bill, which was first submitted in the Knesset over a year ago, immediately after the coalition was formed. According to the proposal, Hamas prisoners would lose privileges that they receive in Israeli prisons, including family visits.

The bill would only allow visits by prisoners’ attorneys as required by law, as well as visits by the International Red Cross every three months. The bill would allow prison authorities to limit or suspend access to television, newspapers and educational programs, as well as extend provisions for allowing prisoners to be placed in solitary confinement.

The government’s top negotiator for Schalit’s release, Hagai Hadas, was said to support the initiative.

MK Danny Danon (Likud), who sponsored one of the similar proposals reviewed by the committee as one bill, said on Sunday that “Hamas prisoners’ parties in Israeli jails are about to end. This bill passes on a sharp and clear message to the Hamas leadership and to all those who thought that they would continue to receive VIP conditions in Israeli prisons until their release.”

The bill will be placed before the Knesset plenum for a first reading on Wednesday, and some opposition lawmakers have already voiced their support for the legislation, seemingly guaranteeing that it will advance to committee hearings.

The bill’s strongest opposition in the house comes from within the Arab parties. MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta’al) blasted the Ministerial Committee’s decision on Sunday, saying that it “further distances the possibility of Gilad Schalit’s release and will bring about a third intifada.”

MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) added that “such a demagogical sanction will won’t benefit Gilad Schalit’s case and is likely to harm it.”

A Hamas spokesman said the bill was an extortion attempt, an to try to obtain Schalit’s release for free, and would fail.

“The occupation will not succeed in obtaining its goals – just the opposite,” Sami Abu Zuhri said, adding that the government decision would cause Hamas to raise its demands for an exchange deal, not back down from any of its current demands.

Zuhri proclaimed the decision to deny Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails all visits except by legal counsel and representatives of the International Red Cross “reflective of the occupation’s inhumane conduct toward Palestinian prisoners.”

Israel releases Hamas's Abu Tir, arrested after Schalit's capture
Gov't mulls harsher prison conditions
Medvedev to Mashaal: Free Schalit

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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