RAMALLAH: Palestine’s factions have agreed to draw up a comprehensive plan, which includes escalating resistance in various areas of the West Bank and preparing for strikes inside prisons, which may be the largest in the history of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
This follows a possibility that the right-wing extremist Israeli Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir might become the minister of internal security and police and follow up on his threats to place more restrictions on Palestinian prisoners.
On Monday, he insisted that Likud leader and election winner Benjamin Netanyahu give him the ministry with broad powers when he forms the next Israeli 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 the headlines in Israeli newspapers on Tuesday.
Salem Badi, 50, a former prisoner from Al-Bireh city, told Arab News that the Palestinian security prisoners’ concerns about Ben-Gvir’s threats are founded. He said that nine months ago, the ultra-right leader tried to visit Ofer jail near Ramallah, where Badi was detained, and made provocative statements regarding the prisoners’ living conditions.
“He came to Ofer jail and accused us of living in a five-star hotel and incited the jail administration against us,” Badi told Arab News.
Ben-Gvir also visited an Israeli hospital where Palestinian security prisoners who were on hunger strike were receiving treatment and made provocative statements against them, Badi said.
Badi said the difficulties were created by Israel’s former Minster of Internal Security Gilad Erdam, who curtailed prisoners’ freedom to buy food from the jail’s cafeteria, decreased their sport hours and breaks and prevented them from receiving long-distance university education.
“All this time, the Israeli security authorities have been harassing the Palestinian security prisoners, but with the arrival of Ben-Gvir, the harassment and restrictions could see a dangerous escalation,” Badi said.
Maj. Gen. Qadri Abu Baker, head of the Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs Commission, told Arab News that he too is concerned about the possibility of Ben-Gvir taking over the ministry and abusing Palestinian prisoners in an unprecedented way.
“Ben-Gvir is determined to take revenge on the Palestinian prisoners because he considers them terrorists, and we have no doubts about his intention to harass them,” Abu Baker told Arab News.
He said if Ben-Gvir becomes the minister of internal security, he will prevent the presence of Palestinian organizations inside prisons and make it difficult for the prisoners’ families to pay them visits.
Abu Bakr said that the prisoners would not surrender to such measures and that 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 over 1 million Palestinians since their occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967.
The prisoners have waged dozens of hunger strikes calling for 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 over 300 prisoners who have spent more than 20 years behind bars, 600 sick prisoners, 25 prisoners with cancer, nine on dialysis, eight entirely paralyzed and dozens of elderly persons.
Qadoura Fares, who spent 18 years in Israeli prisons and now heads the Palestinian Prisoner 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 in its army because of his extreme stances.”
Fares said the emergence of Ben-Gvir and the control of the Israeli extremist right over the government poses a threat to all the 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 was arrested more than once for criminal reasons, and Netanyahu refused to ally with him before. Even before the recent elections, he refused to take a picture with Ben-Gvir.”