Jerusalem, March 29: Israel has unveiled harsh policies, ahead of an incoming rightist government under Benjamin Netanyahu as it will impose "severe sanctions" on Palestinian prisoners in its custody to pressurise Hamas and other factions, saying Tel Aviv "mustn't show weakness."
The move is aimed at pressurising Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip and is keeping a Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit captive.
The Israeli cabinet, in its last meeting before a new government takes over, voted to impose severe sanctions on Palestinian prisoners that will strip them of several privileges and also limit family visit.
"It is unthinkable that Shalit is living there without being able to see his parents, while Hamas prisoners live here almost like in a summer camp," outgoing minister, Meir Sheetrit said.
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann recommended withdrawing all privileges extended to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails not anchored in Israeli or international law, such as access to education, television, newspapers and radio.
"It is true that we are the only democracy in the Middle East, but we can't let ourselves become the only suckers and we mustn't show weakness," Friedman said.
The sanctions will include drastic limitations on family visits and the revocation of the opportunity to take high school matriculation exams or study at the open university.
The Israel Prisons service announced at the weekly cabinet meeting that the recommendations will go into effect in the near future.
The prisoners will also be subject to stricter guidelines regarding the transfer of money for use at the prison canteen.
Friedmann briefed the cabinet on legislation needed to being the changes into effect.
The matter has been debated in Israeli public media for the last few weeks since talks over prisoner exchange with Hamas didn't materialise.
First Published: Sunday, March 29, 2009, 00:00