Fundamentally Freund: Land for lunch, anyone?
It might sound absurd, but if we cannot overcome some empty Palestinian stomachs, then Israel may be in for a diplomatic diet we will soon come to regret.
Palestinians in Ramallah on 'Nakba Day' Photo: TOVAH LAZAROFF
Amounting crisis of gastronomic proportions was averted this past week when
Israel and hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners agreed to a deal that was
brokered by Egypt, ending the stand-off between the two sides.
than a month of missed meals, skipped snacks and disregarded desserts, the
jailed terrorists have at last returned to the prison cafeteria, prompting sighs
of relief from throughout the international community.
successfully highlighted the wilted waistlines of imprisoned Palestinian
terrorists, Amnesty International can now finally get back to addressing some of
those other pesky issues bedeviling the region, such as the slaughter in Syria
or the tumult in Egypt.
But have no fear, dear reader. Israel drove a
really hard bargain this time around. In exchange for the Palestinians’ grudging
willingness to resume indulging in three hearty meals a day courtesy of the
Israeli tax payer, the Jewish state agreed to a series of demands aimed at
easing the prisoners’ conditions.
These included lifting a ban on visits
to detainees by relatives living in Hamas-ruled Gaza, and freeing 19 dangerous
prisoners from solitary confinement.
Not without reason, Hamas was
delighted by this turn of events, as Israel handed them a scrumptious propaganda
victory. As Reuters reported, “Gaza’s Hamas leaders hailed the strike as a
successful campaign against Israel and celebrations quickly spread to the
streets where motorists honked horns, and passersby embraced and shouted ‘Allahu
“This is a first step toward liberation and victory,” crowed
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum.
The reaction in Israel was somewhat less
sanguine, and rightly so.
After all, this was an obtuse and short-sighted
deal, the likes of which will only encourage further mischief and misconduct
down the road. Rewarding the prisoners by giving in to their demands sends a
dangerous message and virtually invites future hunger strikes and other
disturbances as a means of squeezing still more concessions out of
Indeed, parliamentarians on both the Left and the Right were
sharply critical of the government’s handling of this affair, with Labor MK
Isaac Herzog correctly noting that it only serves to strengthen Hamas, and Likud
MK Danny Danon slamming it as a “prize for terrorism.”
Why, then, did the
government agree to it? According to spokesman Mark Regev, the move was intended
as a “gesture” to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, the same guy who
has been refusing to sit down and negotiate with Israel.
“It is our
hope,” Regev said, apparently with a straight face, “that this gesture by Israel
will serve to build confidence between the parties and advance
But the Palestinian leader did not seem particularly moved.
Barely a day later, Abbas gave a speech in Ramallah to mark “Nakba Day,” when
Palestinians bemoan the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment. In his remarks,
Abbas repeatedly blasted Israel, demanding that it hand over all of Jerusalem to
“We insist on each particle and each stone in
Jerusalem,” Abbas said, apparently not feeling the need to make any like-minded
“gestures” towards Israel.
This sorry episode demonstrates a deeply
troubling weakness which lies at the root of Israeli policy. Instead of caving
in to Palestinian demands, Israel should have tackled the matter head on and
simply forced the prisoners to eat.
This is common practice. Just two
months ago, an inmate in Connecticut who had embarked on a hunger strike to
protest the judicial system lost his battle against prison officials when the
state’s Supreme Court upheld their right to feed him against his
William Coleman, who is serving an eight-year sentence for raping
his wife during divorce and custody proceedings, was said to have dropped from
237 to 139 pounds, prompting officials to fear for his health.
supported a lower court’s ruling which found that the State Department of
Corrections’ responsibility to preserve life and prevent copy-cat hunger strikes
outweighed Coleman’s rights to free speech and privacy.
This is so
patently obvious that it is hard to comprehend why Israel’s prison officials did
not adopt a similar stance.
To be sure, force-feeding hundreds of
Palestinian prisoners would have prompted a media maelstrom and generated still
more heat in Israel’s direction.
But caving in to the inmates’ demands
has only bought short-term peace and quiet at the expense of long-term security
An opportunity was missed here, one that could have put a dent
in the persistent efforts by the Palestinians to test Israel’s mettle and probe
for still more areas in which to weaken our resolve. We have once again sent a
message that if you push us hard enough, we will not hesitate to
At this rate, it won’t be long before Palestinian prisoners start
launching more hunger strikes and demanding far greater concessions.
for lunch, anyone? It might sound absurd, but if we cannot overcome some empty
Palestinian stomachs, then Israel may be in for a diplomatic diet we will soon
come to regret.