The penal system of both Israel and the occupied territories
was administered by the Israel Prison Service, a branch of the
Ministry of Interior independent of the Israel Police. It was
headed by the commissioner of prisons. The prison system was originally
set up in 1926 as part of the British Mandate police force. Many
of the prisons still in use in 1988 were built in the 1930s by
the British authorities. Outside the authority of the Prison Service
were police lockups located in every major town and military detention
centers in Israel and the occupied territories.
As of January 1, 1987, the Prison Service operated thirteen prisons
and detention centers in Israel and eight penitentiaries in the
Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Palestinians of the occupied territories
serving sentences of more than five years were incarcerated in
maximum security prisons within Israel. The prison population
in Israel was 3,837 and in the occupied territories was 4,527.
Neve Tirza, the sole facility for women, had ninety-seven inmates.
These totals did not include the sizable numbers of Palestinians
who were being held in military detention centers. As of mid-1988
about half of the detainees were confined at Ketziot, a tent camp
in the Negev Desert close to the Egyptian border, which held at
least 2,500 prisoners. A large number of rock-throwing juveniles
were held at Ansar 2, a camp in the Gaza Strip. As described in
the Israeli press and by visiting human rights officials, tension
among the detainees at Ketziot--many of them business and professional
people--was high owing to petty humiliations, boredom, severe
climatic conditions, overcrowding, and isolation. No radios, watches,
or books were permitted. Punishment included periods of exposure
to the fierce desert sun, but beatings and brutality were said
to be rare.
Israeli prisons were chronically overcrowded; violence and abuse
on the part of the staff were common. As of the early 1980s, an
American specialist described the available occupational and rehabilitation
facilities as only nominal. An investigative commission appointed
by the Supreme Court reported in 1981 that "the condition of the
prisons is so serious, subhuman, and on the verge of explosion
that it calls for a revolutionary change in the way prisons are
run." Conditions were especially bad in two of the four maximum
security penitentiaries, Beersheba, the largest prison in Israel,
and Ram Allah. At Beersheba the commission found severe lack of
sanitation, drug smuggling, and close confinement with almost
no opportunity for exercise. The commission recommended the demolition
of the Ram Allah penitentiary as unfit for human habitation.
Palestinian and international human rights groups have complained
of widespread and systematic mistreatment of Arab prisoners. Periodic
hunger strikes have been undertaken by Palestinian prisoners demanding
the same basic privileges as Jewish inmates.
A number of new prisons were completed during the early 1980s
and, as of 1987, construction of a new prison hospital was underway,
as were new wings at several existing prisons. The increased accommodation
would, however, do little more than provide space for a rising
prison population. During 1986 the total number of inmates had
risen by 587 while new construction added 670 spaces in the prison
Supplementary courses to enable prisoners to complete elementary
or secondary education were available and completed successfully
by nearly 1,000 inmates in 1986. In some prisons, employment was
available in small-scale enterprises operated by the prison service
or by private entrepreneurs. About 2,700 prisoners were employed
in some fashion. A total of 500 inmates participated in vocational
training in 1986 in a variety of trades, including carpentry,
bookbinding, printing, tailoring, and shoemaking.
Furloughs were granted for good behavior; 15,000 permits for
home leave were issued in 1986. A temporary parole often was allowed
non-security prisoners after serving one-third of their sentences.
After completing two-thirds of their sentences, such prisoners
could earn a permanent parole for good behavior. Although parole
privileges were not extended to those convicted of security offenses,
the president had the power to grant pardons and, on occasion,
group amnesties were offered to security prisoners.
During 1986 about 40 percent of the prisoners in Israel were
serving sentences for crimes against property and a further 19
percent for drug trafficking or possession. In the Gaza Strip
and the West Bank, nearly 36 percent had been convicted of terrorist
or hostile activity, although many others were serving sentences
for related crimes, such as use of explosives and Molotov cocktails,
armed infiltration, and endangering state security. Less than
6 percent had been convicted of property offenses.
* * *
Among general studies on the IDF, one important work is The
Israeli Army by Edward Luttwak and Dan Horowitz, which provides
both a historical and a contemporary perspective up to the mid-1970s.
Additional material can be found in Zeev Schiff's A History
of the Israeli Army, 1874 to the Present, published in 1985,
and Reuven Gal's A Portrait of the Israeli Soldier, published
A vast amount of writing on the Israeli national security establishment
resulted from the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Perhaps the work with
the greatest impact was Israel's Lebanon War by Zeev
Schiff and Ehud Yaari. This highly critical account, with considerable
detail on the personal interaction among leading political and
military figures, caused an uproar when it was published in Israel.
Flawed Victory, by Trevor N. Dupuy and Paul Martell,
recounts Israel's military involvement in Lebanon over a somewhat
longer period and provides a detached appraisal of the performance
of the IDF.
The Middle East Military Balance, 1986, by Aharon Levran
and Zeev Eytan, includes country-by-country analyses of the competing
forces in the region. The study assesses the growing external
security threat to Israel posed by the Arab military build-up
between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s and the budget restrictions
affecting the IDF beginning in 1984. The capabilities of the IDF
vis-à-vis its Arab neighbors are also examined in briefer commentaries
by Kenneth S. Brower and Drew Middleton.
Since limited data are available from official sources on the
units, personnel strengths, and equipment of the IDF, much of
the discussion in this chapter is based on estimates published
in The Military Balance, 1987-1988, by the International
Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Israel's links with
many other countries in the form of military sales and training
assistance are traced in Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi's The Israeli
Connection: Who Israel Arms and Why. A fuller, more scholarly
treatment of the same subject is Israel's Global Reach: Arms
Sales as Diplomacy by Aaron S. Kleiman. One chapter of Bernard
Reich's The United States and Israel: Influence in the Special
Relationship is devoted to the military aspects of cooperation
between the two countries. Mordechai Gazit's article, "Israeli
Military Procurement from the United States," provides additional
details on the subject.
An overview of the first six months of the uprising that began
in the occupied territories in December 1987 can be found in Don
Peretz's "Intifadeh: The Palestinian Uprising" in the summer 1988
issue of Foreign Affairs. Israeli punishment and legal
sanctions against the Arab population are assessed in the United
States Department of State's annual Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices. (For further information and complete citations,
Data as of December 1988