Knesset bans lawmakers from visiting terrorists

Lawmakers will no longer be allowed to visit terrorists in prison, following allegations that MK Bassel Ghattas (Arab Joint List) smuggled cell phones to security prisoners, the Knesset House Committee decided Tuesday.

The House Committee adopted Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan’s recommendation, which was based on Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Nadav Argaman’s proposal, and decided that visits to security prisoners, as defined by the Prison Services, no longer fall under MKs’ parliamentary immunity.

Exceptions can be made for a few committee chairpeople from the coalition and opposition, who can visit security prisoners to allow parliamentary oversight of the conditions of their incarceration.

The ban will mostly impact Arab Joint List MKs, many of whom regularly visit terrorists in prison, but there are some other lawmakers who it will effect, like MK Amir Peretz (Zionist Union) who sporadically visits Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti.

Erdan said that MK visits to terrorists “strengthen their status, which they use to harm national security. The allegations against MK Ghattas show the potential of harm to our security that these visits allow.”

House Committee chairman Yoav Kisch (Likud) called the prison visits “outrageous,” and said “the party is over.”

MK Oren Hazan (Likud) was the only coalition member in the committee not to vote for the ban and abstained, because it would also apply to Jewish security prisoners.

“If the decision was only about Arab security prisoners, who are traitors and enemies, I would be the first to support it and vote in favor,” Hazan said.