RAMALLAH: The Palestinian factions have agreed to draw up a comprehensive plan, which includes escalating resistance in various parts of the West Bank and preparing for strikes inside the prisons, which could be the largest in the history of the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
This follows the possibility of far-right Israeli Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir becoming interior security and police minister and following through on his threats to impose more restrictions on Palestinian prisoners.
On Monday, he insisted that Likud leader and election winner Benjamin Netanyahu give him the ministry with sweeping powers when he forms Israel’s next government.
Palestinian sources expect the outbreak of clashes against the Israeli army to prevent Ben-Gvir from implementing his plan, which targets nearly 5,000 prisoners.
Ben-Gvir’s insistence that his party take three ministerial portfolios, including the Ministry of Internal Security and the police, with expanded powers, made headlines in Israeli newspapers on Tuesday.
Salem Badi, 50, a former prisoner in Al-Bireh town, told Arab News that Palestinian security prisoners’ concerns about Ben-Gvir’s threats are well-founded. He said nine months ago the ultra-right leader attempted to visit Ofer prison near Ramallah, where Badi was being held, and made provocative statements about the prisoners’ living conditions.
“He came to Ofer prison and accused us of living in a five-star hotel and incited the prison administration against us,” Badi told Arab News.
Ben-Gvir also visited an Israeli hospital where hunger-striking Palestinian security prisoners were receiving treatment and made provocative statements against them, Badi said.
Badi said the difficulties were created by Israel’s former internal security minister Gilad Erdam, who restricted prisoners’ freedom to buy food from the prison cafeteria, cut their hours for sports and their breaks and prevented them from following a distance university education.
“Throughout this time, Israeli security authorities have harassed Palestinian security prisoners, but with Ben-Gvir’s arrival, the harassment and restrictions could see a dangerous escalation,” Badi said.
Major General Qadri Abu Baker, head of the Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs Commission, told Arab News that he was also concerned about the possibility of Ben-Gvir taking control of the ministry and mistreating Palestinian prisoners of war. in an unprecedented way.
“Ben-Gvir is determined to take revenge on the Palestinian prisoners because he considers them terrorists, and we have no doubt that he intends to harass them,” Abu Baker told Arab News.
He said that if Ben-Gvir became interior security minister, he would prevent the presence of Palestinian organizations inside the prisons and make it difficult for prisoners’ families to visit them.
Abu Bakr said the prisoners would not give in to such measures and the Palestinian people would stand in solidarity with them.
He said his group was communicating with the UN, the Red Cross, the World Health Organization and various international human rights groups to prevent the implementation of Ben-Gvir’s plans.
Israeli authorities have arrested more than a million Palestinians since their occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967.
The prisoners led dozens of hunger strikes to demand an improvement in their conditions of detention.
There are now 4,700 prisoners, including 31 women, 175 children and 560 prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment. This number also includes more than 300 inmates who have spent more than 20 years behind bars, 600 sick inmates, 25 inmates with cancer, nine on dialysis, eight fully paralyzed and dozens of elderly people.
Qadoura Fares, who spent 18 years in Israeli prisons and now heads the Palestinian prisoners’ club, told Arab News: “We are concerned about the dangerous ideology and doctrine that Ben-Gvir espouses. He is so dangerous that even Israel refused to recruit him into its army because of his extreme positions”.
Fares said the emergence of Ben-Gvir and the control of the Israeli extremist right over the government pose a threat to the entire Palestinian people and stability in the region.
Fares added: “Ben-Gvir hangs a picture of Baruch Goldstein, the extremist Jew who committed the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron in 1994, in which 29 Palestinian worshipers were killed and 129 injured.
“He has been arrested more than once for criminal reasons and Netanyahu has refused to ally with him before. Even before the recent elections, he refused to take a photo with Ben-Gvir.