National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir informed Knesset Speaker Amir Ohana of the cancellation of the practice that had been instituted by Ben Gvir’s predecessor Omer Barlev (Labor) and Ohana’s predecessor Miki Levy (Yesh Atid) according to which any MK could visit security prisoners.
Minister Ben Gvir told Speaker Ohana that in line with his authority according to the law, he is returning to the old protocol, whereby only one MK from each faction will be allowed to visit security prisoners, with appropriate supervision of the visits.
The original restrictive protocol was adopted in 2016 after MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) was documented smuggling cellphones and SIM cards to Arab security prisoners in Ketziot Prison during a visit. Due to his parliamentary immunity, Ghattas had not been subjected to a security check at the prison gates. On December 22, 2016, hours before a planned Knesset vote to strip Ghattas of his parliamentary immunity, Ghattas voluntarily relinquished his parliamentary immunity and was arrested shortly after police found 12 cellphones and 16 SIM cards on Palestinian security prisoners whom he had visited.
Ghattas faced charges of aiding terrorists, complicity in committing a felony, deceptive practices, breach of trust, and violation of the Prison Service code. He gave up his Knesset seat in March 2017 after agreeing to be jailed for two years. On July 2, 2017, he arrived at Gilboa Prison to begin serving his sentence. In November 2018, a parole board rejected Ghattas’s request to grant him parole after serving one-third of his sentence. The parole board ruled that he had failed to express genuine remorse for his actions and noted that he had failed to enroll in a rehabilitation program. He was released on 27 May 2019, two years, give or take a week, after his imprisonment.
In 2021, ignoring the contrary professional opinion of the Shin Bet, Minister Barlev decided to change the procedure and allowed all Knesset members to visit security prisoners.
In his message to the Speaker, Minister Ben Gvir stated, “I believe that the meetings of Knesset members with security prisoners encourage those prisoners and lead to incitement and terrorist propaganda.”
“The time has come to stop pampering the terrorists. I will not allow visits of support and incitement to terrorism on my shift,” Ben Gvir declared.
On Saturday afternoon, the detectives of the Central Unit of the Jerusalem Police District dispersed a PLO terrorist conference in the neighborhood of Issawiya, after National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gabir signed an order to prevent the activities of the Palestinian Authority in eastern Jerusalem. The detectives prevented the conference from taking place, closed down the place, and summoned three activists for questioning.
Minister Ben Gvir said: “The time has come to stop the celebration of the Palestinian Authority in Jerusalem, and not to allow the members of the Palestinian Authority to hold terrorist conferences in Jerusalem. I thank the Jerusalem Police for their quick action.”