MK Danon promises to push Hamas privileges bill

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday delayed for the third consecutive meeting a bill that seeks to limit privileges granted to Hamas prisoners in order to approximate the conditions imposed on captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. The measure's sponsor, MK Danny Danon (Likud), promised it would reach the Knesset floor this week with or without the government's support. "The State of Israel must put pressure on Hamas in order to bring about a conclusion to the negotiations and to bring about the return home of Gilad Schalit," Danon said after the committee's vote. "Delaying the approval of the bill weakens our position vis-a-vis Hamas. I intend to continue to advance the bill." He said that on Monday, he would place the bill before the coalition parties' Knesset leadership for approval, and that if he failed to receive their support, he would put the bill up for a preliminary vote as a private member's bill on Wednesday. Although the legislation has the support of many cabinet ministers - and likely a majority of the 19 ministers who sit on the committee - the security forces are allegedly trying to block the bill. And they are not alone. Likud sources have claimed that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is working behind the scenes against the measure. Netanyahu's office said he opposed the bill, pending the work of a committee headed by Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman that is setting new rules for handling prisoners in a more organized way, in coordination with the police, Prisons Service and the State Prosecutor's Office. But Likud sources said the prime minister opposed the bill primarily because it could complicate negotiations on Schalit and harm Israel's image abroad. Other ministers oppose the bill because they are concerned it could cause rioting among Hamas prisoners and would not pass the muster of the High Court of Justice. Danon said on Sunday that he was still speaking with experts both in and outside of government agencies to assess the degree to which the claims that a lock-down could cause "another intifada" were legitimate. If he discovered that the security forces were right, he would withdraw the legislation. To make the bill comply with international law, Danon included clauses guaranteeing Hamas prisoners visits from the Red Cross and their lawyers, though Schalit has never been accorded such basic rights.