Hamas prisoner benefits still not cut, despite PM's plan

Prison Services: Benefits remain to maintain peace; Hotovely: Schalit remains in captivity, while Hamas men stay in a five-star hotel.

Palestinian prisoners in Israel's Ketziot prison 311 (R) (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Palestinian prisoners in Israel's Ketziot prison 311 (R)
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Hamas inmates continue to get optional benefits in prison, despite Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s declared change in policy, Prisons Service officials told the Knesset Interior Committee on Wednesday.
Last month, Netanyahu announced that he would revoke prisoners’ privileges in order to pressure Hamas to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. However, the Hamas men may still be visited by their families, watch cable television and buy products in the prison canteen, including daily newspapers.
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The only change since the Prime Minister’s declaration is that Hamas prisoners may not register for academic courses – but prisoners with only one exam left can take it and receive a degree.
The Prisons Service representatives said that the benefits were not canceled in order to keep peace and quiet in the prisons, but they would consider further changes to worsen Hamas prisoners’ conditions.
The Interior Committee meeting, which was closed to the media, was initiated by coalition chairman Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) and MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud).
“It can’t be that the prime minister’s policy isn’t implemented by Prisons Service,” Elkin said. “I expect them to take steps to worsen the prisoners’ conditions and stop their day camp once and for all.”
Hotovely said that Schalit is “in Hamas captivity, where no one can visit him or know his condition, but we let prisoners stay in a five-star hotel.”
The Likud MK called for legislation to be drafted that would change the current situation.
Ben-Ari blamed Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch for not worsening Hamas prisoners’ conditions.
“Netanyahu and Aharonovitch speak strongly, but they are letting the prisoners continue their party,” he said. “Only in Israel do terrorists – including murderers of women and children get such privileges.”