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Political crisis during wartime? Ben Gvir breaches Israel's emergency govt coalition agreement by not extending prison chief's term

She was 'soft with Hamas-affiliated prisoners,' claims the national security minister

Prison Service Chief Commissioner Katy Perry at the National Security Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 22, 2023. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel Prisons Service Commissioner Katy Perry will not continue to serve in her position beyond her current tenure, which is scheduled to end on Jan. 24. Perry has been prison chief for the last three years.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir made the decision not to extend Perry's term on Wednesday, which some believe will potentially result in the downfall of Israel's emergency coalition.

The decision to not extend the Israel Prisons Service (IPS) chief's term beyond Jan. 24 caused consternation among ministers from Israel's War Cabinet, including Benny Gantz’s National Unity party, which said that Ben Gvir's decision was contrary to the emergency government agreement that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz signed following the Oct. 7 massacre.

According to that agreement, no new political appointments are to be made while Israel is still fighting in the ongoing war against the Hamas terror group in Gaza.

“Four days after the war broke, we formed an emergency government and agreed that all senior officials remain in their posts,” National Unity Minister Chili Tropper said at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday according to Israeli media.

“Violation of this agreement conveys that unity and security are less important. [It conveys that] political decisions take precedence over the people's unity. If there is an agreement, one must uphold it,” Tropper told Ben Gvir.

Ben Gvir said the agreement does not apply to him because he was not part of those discussions and the agreement was signed between Netanyahu and Gantz.

“Unity means caring for everyone. One party cannot make a deal with a second party, which then tells a third party what to do,” Ben Gvir argued.

According to the national security minister, the IPS chief did not perform the job adequately, which is why he decided not to extend her term next year.

“The prison commissioner did not carry out her duties. She was soft with Hamas-affiliated prisoners,” Ben Gvir claimed, adding that Perry negotiated to improve conditions of Hamas terrorists in prison without his knowledge.

She “held negotiations over improving their conditions, in complete opposition to my explicit and unequivocal stance,” Ben Gvir said.

In addition, Ben Gvir accused Perry of not doing enough to protect female prison guards, who fell prey to Palestinian terrorists in the Gilboa Prison “pimping affair” and the Ramon Prison sex scandal.  

Both Shas party head Aryeh Deri and United Torah Judaism party's Knesset Member Moshe Gafni warned that the emergency government could fall apart because of Ben Gvir’s decision to release Perry at the end of her term in January, with Gafni saying that his party “opposes internal shocks during wartime and demands that agreements be respected.”

Gantz also lashed out at Ben Gvir and other politicians for “returning to October 6” and said that he had joined the government to win the war in Gaza, not for political purposes and gains.

“I hear voices suggesting that my colleagues and I should leave the government. I want to tell them – we're not in the government to stay, but so Israel can win,” Gantz stated.

In response, Ben Gvir explained: “My disagreement with Benny Gantz runs much deeper than the extension of the prison chief's tenure. Rather, it revolves around his support for supplying fuel to Hamas, which I oppose,” Ben Gvir said, adding that he was also opposed to Gantz’s “stance in favor of offering humanitarian aid unconditionally” to Gazans.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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