Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a member of the extremist Jewish Power party, has announced that he will limit family visits for Palestinian prisoners from the occupied West Bank to once every two months, instead of once a month. The decision, which will take effect on Sunday, has been met with strong opposition and criticism from Palestinian rights groups, Israeli security agencies, and international actors.
Ben Gvir, who is also a settler in the West Bank, said that his decision was based on his ideology and beliefs, and that his right to life outweighed the Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement. He said that he was not afraid of the consequences of his move, and that he would not back down from his position.
The decision affects more than 4,000 Palestinian prisoners who are held in Israeli jails for security-related offenses, such as involvement in armed resistance, stone-throwing, or membership in banned organizations. Many of them are also held under administrative detention, a controversial practice that allows Israel to detain people without charge or trial for renewable periods of up to six months.
Palestinian prisoners and their families have long suffered from harsh and discriminatory conditions in Israeli prisons, such as solitary confinement, torture, medical negligence, and denial of basic rights. Family visits are one of the few lifelines for the prisoners, who rely on them for emotional support and communication with the outside world.
The Palestinian Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs Commission condemned Ben Gvir’s decision as a “racist and retaliatory approach” that violated both Israeli laws and international legal standards. The commission said that the decision would increase tensions and violence not only in Israeli prisons, but also in the West Bank, where the issue of prisoners is highly sensitive and mobilizing.
Calls for International Intervention
The commission also called for international intervention and pressure on Israel to reverse its decision and respect the rights of Palestinian prisoners. It urged the international community to hold Israel accountable for its violations and crimes against the Palestinian people.
The decision was also criticized by Israeli security agencies, who warned that it could have negative implications for Israel‘s security and stability. According to Israeli media reports, the decision was made without consulting or informing the Israeli military, the Shin Bet security service, or the Israel Prison Service. The sources said that the decision was “irresponsible” and “harmful” to Israel’s interests.
The sources also said that the decision could provoke a backlash from Palestinian factions and groups, who could launch attacks or escalate their resistance against Israel. They also said that the decision could undermine the cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on security matters.
The decision was also denounced by international actors, who expressed their concern over its impact on human rights and peace prospects. The US State Department said that it strongly condemned Ben Gvir‘s comments and decision, and that such messages were particularly damaging when amplified by those in leadership positions.
The European Union also slammed Ben Gvir’s decision, saying that it violated human rights and international norms. The EU reiterated its position that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank were illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.
Ben Gvir is known for his radical views and actions. He is a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and was banned from politics for his racist views. Ben Gvir has also been involved in several violent incidents against Palestinians and left-wing activists. He once boasted that he had stolen a sign from then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car that read “Peace is made with enemies”. Rabin was later assassinated by a Jewish extremist opposed to his peace efforts with the Palestinians.