The Palestinians often create embarrassing situations for Israel, enlisting the help of respected international players. The hot topic these days is the hunger strike being staged by an Islamic Jihad member currently under administrative detention in Israel.
Khader Adnan stopped eating and the world began admonishing Israel. Israel’s critics have recently been joined by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who speaks for all of Europe.
When it comes to balancing security needs with the law, administrative detention -- holding prisoners without trial -- is Israel’s Achilles’ heel. There is not one decent person in Israel who feels comfortable with the fact that some 400 Palestinian prisoners are currently held under administrative order. In a terror-stricken world, and in comparison to what is happening in Iran, Syria and Guantanamo, the events in Israel are negligible. Yet if it were possible to do without the administrative orders, or even reduce the number of such prisoners, Israel would jump at the chance.
Ashton and others like her, here and around the world, have demanded that Israel minimize its use of administrative detention. One can understand where she is coming from, and this should be Israel’s objective too. But we must beware of the Islamic Jihad prisoner’s objective: He is trying to force Israel to refrain from one of the integral and essential aspects of the war against terror. If he wins, there will be no more administrative arrests.
Israeli journalists and many others have voiced support for Adnan. The Palestinians and their supporters wonder why world leaders cried out over Gilad Schalit (the Israeli soldier who was held in Hamas captivity for more than five years) but ignored the administrative prisoners. That is a ridiculous argument: Journalists, lawyers and doctors -- including Adnan’s own doctors -- have frequented his bed at the Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed, and he has not been ignored. Furthermore, his conditions are in no way reminiscent of the conditions in which Schalit was held. Hamas did not even allow a representative of the Red Cross to see Schalit.
Israel should make it very clear to the world that three principles will guide its approach toward Adnan and others like him: Israel will use administrative detention as infrequently as it possibly can; it will fight attempts to force it to abandon a key aspect of the war on terror, despite efforts by Adnan, his father and a handful of journalists to undermine the country’s security; and at the same time, Israel will forcibly prevent Adnan from dying.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher allowed Irish terrorists to kill themselves by hunger strikes in a British prison. Israel does not have an iron lady like Thatcher. As an emergency life-saving measure, Israel must force-feed prisoners who engage in hunger strikes. Nutritients can be inserted through other means than the throat and without the prisoner having to swallow, and that is what needs to be done. For prisoners’ own good. And for the good of Israel.