The Knesset plenum gave final approval on Monday, November 5, to the Bill to Amend the Prison Ordinance (No. 54 and Temporary Order), 2018, which extends the period of time during which authorities can grant prisoners early release for administrative reasons, following a High Court of Justice ruling that prisoners should be released due to overcrowding in jails. However, this extension will not apply to Palestinian prisoners.
During the debate, which preceded the vote, Internal Affairs Committee Chairman MK Yoav Kisch (Likud) said, “In my opinion, security prisoners are not even prisoners, and the committee thought so as well when it voted.” Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) wondered, “Our safety as citizens of the state is related only to the Palestinian prisoners? Isn’t our safety as women also related to people who have been sentenced for offenses of sexual harassment and sexual or very violent attacks; persons who are not in prison, and this ordinance allows them to be released before their sentence is completed? Is this not also a threat to our safety as citizens?”
Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) said, “Essentially we are saying here that there are very severe offenses in the State of Israel, and that we all agree that they are severe offenses, but the state is sending a message that says: ‘If you committed regular severe offenses, you will be entitled to be released, but if you happened to be the taxi driver who unknowingly drove someone who, as it later turned out, committed an act of terror – no, no, you will sit in prison for the duration of your sentence and you will not be eligible for administrative release.’ This is not right. It is problematic and distorts the concept of basic justice.”
After all the reservations to the bill submitted by the Joint List group were rejected, the Joint List requested that the third reading of the bill become a vote of no-confidence in the far-right government. Fifty-three MKs supported the bill in its third and final reading, nine MKs opposed it and four abstained.