Last month, Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev (Labor) and Knesset Speaker MK Miki Levy (Yesh Atid) agreed to allow Knesset members to visit terrorist convicts in prison. As of August 1, MKs from all factions of the House may visit security prisoners, while the authorities can monitor those meetings to protect the security interests of the State of Israel.
This outline was conceived to make it easier for mainly Arab MKs to meet with mainly Arab security prisoners. But one creative MK, Itamar Ben Gvir, found a way of turning this into yet another opportunity for political street theater. He submitted a proper request to meet the terrorists Amjad and Hakim Awad, the murderers of the Fogel family.
On March 11, 2011, five members of the same family were murdered in their beds in the settlement of Itamar, in Samaria. The victims were the father Ehud (Udi) Fogel, the mother Ruth Fogel, and three of their six children: Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, the youngest, a three-month-old infant, who was decapitated.
Amjad and Hakim Awad, two young Arab cousins from the village of Awarta, were arrested, and on June 5, 2011, indicted on five counts of murder, stealing weapons, breaking and entering, and conspiracy to commit a crime. They were convicted, first denying their involvement in the attack, and later proudly confessing to the murders, expressing no remorse and happily reenacting the attack for security officials.
MK ben Gvir says he was not surprised when his request was refused, but he was stunned to discover that the refusal was based on a request from the two killer cousins. The response Ben Gvir received from Minister Barlev’s office read: “The prisoners you wanted to visit––Amjad Awad and Hakim Awad––are not interested in your visit and refuse the visit.”
Barlev’s staff added: “The aforementioned visit may damage the proper conduct of the prison, in accordance with the ‘danger to the security of the prison or the order, discipline, and safe custody in the prison,’ stipulated in the outline.”
Ben Gvir responded, saying, “The outline is intended to facilitate the freedom of movement of members of the Ra’am and the Joint Arab List Knesset factions and to allow them to contact murderers, but I intend to spoil the celebration. I will not let the blood of our brothers cry out from the ground while the murderers receive visitors who show them respect. I’m coming by to do the opposite of what Barlev and Miki Levy intended: to yell at them; to check that no one got confused and is spoiling them; to see that there are no more female prison guards that the terrorists invite to the wing and harm them; and above all to remind us all that we must stand up to the terrorists with determination and not with complacency.”
The new outline was formed following the case of former MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) who was photographed on December 20, 2016 smuggling envelopes containing twelve cell phones and other items to security prisoners in Katziot prison while taking advantage of his parliamentary immunity to evade the security check at the prison gates. Since that affair, MKs’ visits have been stopped almost entirely, on the recommendation of then Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud).
Barlev and Levy wanted to create a “safe” way for Arab MKs to renew their visits with security prisoners, seeing as both Arab parties will be vital in forming a center-left government after the November 1 election.