Israel refused on Tuesday to negotiate with hundreds of Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike organized by the notorious terrorist Marwan Barghouti, who is serving life in prison for multiple murders.
Israeli officials said some 1,100 prisoners joined the strike on Monday, which they claimed was called to demand better conditions. If successful, the strike would be the largest in recent years. Palestinian officials and activists estimated the number of participants to be as many as 1,500.
Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said Tuesday that he believes the strike is politically motivated and that the prisoners have no legitimate complaints.
“These are terrorists and incarcerated murderers who are getting exactly what the international law requires,” he told Army Radio. “My policy is that you can’t negotiate with prisoners such as these… There is no reason to give them additional conditions in addition to what they already receive.”
He said Israel has established field hospitals outside the prisons to respond to any immediate medical needs.
Erdan said Barghouti was transferred to another prison in northern Israel and was placed in solitary confinement.
Barghouti is a prominent figure in the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Polls suggest that Palestinians are not deterred by Barghouti’s terrorist record, and is the most popular choice among them to succeed the 82-year-old Abbas.
Barghouti, a leader of the 2000 Palestinian uprising, is serving five life terms after being convicted of directing two shooting attacks and a bombing that killed five people, including three Israelis. Barghouti has been in prison since 2002.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu castigated The New York Times for publishing an opinion article about the strike by Barghouti without identifying him as a convicted terrorist.
“I read, on Sunday, the article in the Times that presents archterrorist Marwan Barghouti as a ‘parliamentarian and leader.’ The paper recanted after we pointed it out to them,” Netanyahu said.
“Calling Barghouti a ‘political leader’ is like calling Assad a ‘pediatrician.’ They are murderers and terrorists. We will never lose our sense of clarity because we are on the side of justice and they are on the side that is neither just nor moral.”
The editors later added on the newspaper’s website that Barghouti was a convicted murderer.
The paper’s public editor Liz Spayd criticized the paper’s op-ed department for its failure to properly identify Barghouti.
“I see no reason to skimp on this, while failing to do so risks the credibility of the author and the Op-Ed pages,” Spayd wrote in a piece titled “An Op-Ed Author Omits His Crimes, and The Times Does Too.”
Erdan said Barghouti’s transfer to solitary confinement was unrelated to the opinion piece.