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Ben Gvir said continuing to fight PM on plan to reduce Palestinian prisoners’ visits

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir remains determined to reduce family visits for Palestinian prisoners despite pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the change, and insists that the matter is solely within his purview, according to a Tuesday report.

Though Ben Gvir has said he is willing to wait on implementing the move, he remains determined to see it through, the Channel 12 story said.

Ben Gvir was said to be rejecting all requests from Netanyahu to back down from his decision, which he has already ordered to be put into practice. Netanyahu and Ben Gvir have publicly squabbled over the matter.

Though Ben Gvir’s ministry is responsible for internal security, Netanyahu is widely seen as distrusting his far-right police minister and has been said to often keep him out of key discussions with top security officials.

Last week Ben Gvir declared that Palestinian prisoners jailed for security offenses would be permitted family visits only once every two months, reducing the previous allowance of monthly visits. He noted that this was in accordance with official regulations, though these have been slackened over the years.

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Ben Gvir, who is responsible for police and the Israel Prison Service, also plans other moves impacting prisoners’ conditions, despite warnings from security officials against changing the status quo of their incarceration.

Netanyahu has scheduled a cabinet meeting on the matter and in recent days his representatives have met with Ben Gvir to prepare for the session, Channel 12 said, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the developments.

In those discussions, Ben Gvir said he would wait until the cabinet meeting before implementing the planned changes, but also insisted that on the issue of visits to security prisoners the regulations were “very clear” and the matter was under his authority.

Illustrative: Security prisoners during a visit session at Ofer Prison near Ramallah, August 20, 2008 (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Senior security officials have warned against the consequences of changing the prisoners’ conditions, concerned over the particularly sensitive current security situation.

Lamenting the dysfunction within the government, one source told Channel 12 that “one hand is holding a fire extinguisher and the other is using a flamethrower to burn everything.”

Tensions have been high amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis and months of raids by Israeli security forces into West Bank Palestinian towns to arrest terror suspects, as well as rising settler attacks on Palestinians.

Senior US officials told the network that they are concerned about Ben Gvir’s plans to change the status quo regarding prisoners and have conveyed thus message to Israeli counterparts.

Illustrative image of security prisoners in the Ofer Prison facility near Ramallah, August 20, 2008. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

While the official policy of the prison service designates visits to be allowed once every two months, over recent years monthly visits have been the norm. This was facilitated through collaborations with the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and the Red Cross.

In addition to tightening family visits, Ben Gvir is planning additional steps against security prisoners, including reducing the types of shampoo available to inmates, restricting access to some television channels, cutting back on time allowed in the prison yard and limiting the availability of lamb meat, Channel 12 reported last week.

Palestinian security prisoners declared on Friday their intention to start a hunger strike in protest of the new restrictions. The prisoners indicated that the strike would commence on September 14.