Israel risks a brutal Intifada if it lets Palestinian hunger strikers die

On the surface, the hunger strike led by imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti is about a fairly mundane list of basic demands for prisoners. But it is symbolic of a much wider struggle, one that could constitute a significant turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, if mishandled, lead to a third intifada.

There has been much focus on the worthiness of Barghouti’s cause and speculation over whether it forms part of an internal leadership struggle within Fatah, the Palestinian movement which effectively governs the West Bank through the Palestinian Authority. But the real issue is whether Israel is prepared to let the hunger strike come to its natural conclusion—that is, to let Barghouti and other Palestinian prisoners die.

The Israeli government and Barghouti are playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship and neither side seems willing to pull back. Israeli ministers, including Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, have extolled the virtues of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s hardline approach to Provisional IRA hunger strikers in the 1980s, which resulted in the deaths of Bobby Sands and nine others. In the meantime, Barghouti has staked his reputation as a popular national leader on achieving a set of fairly narrow demands, including improved family visitation rights, better healthcare services and installing a public landline to allow prisoners to contact their families.
Read full article in Chatham House