Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked Has No Sympathy for Hunger-Striking Palestinian Terror Convicts: ‘It’s Their Own Problem’
The hundreds of Palestinian convicts held in Israeli jails who launched a hunger strike three weeks ago should expect no sympathy from the Jewish state’s top justice official.
When asked by The Algemeiner on Sunday if it would concern her if any of the prisoners were to die, Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked answered with a resounding, “No,” before adding, “It’s their own problem.”
“We should remember that some of them are murderers of women and children, they were involved in murdering, they were supporting terror attacks, so they are not innocent prisoners,” Shaked, a 41-year-old rising political star in Israel from the HaBayit HaYehudi party, said in an interview on the sidelines of a conference organized by the Jerusalem Post in New York.
Her tone was reminiscent of the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was equally unsympathetic when IRA hunger strikers demanded various concessions nearly four decades ago. “Faced with the failure of their discredited cause, the men of violence have chosen in recent months to play what may well be their last card,” Thatcher said of the hunger strikers in May 1981.
Palestinian prisoners in Israel, Shaked explained, have “got everything they should according to international law, and even above it. They are not getting the minimum, they are getting above it. So, if they want to have a strike, it’s their problem.”
In 2014, rival Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman, the Yisrael Beiteinu head now serving as Israel’s defense minister, took a similar stance, praising Thatcher for refusing to “submit to the prisoners’ demands.”
On Sunday, Israel’s prison service released footage of hunger strike leader, convicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti, secretly eating in the bathroom of his cell. Barghouti supporters quickly dismissed the video as a “fabrication.”
According to Israel officials, the strike, which reportedly includes some 890 participants, is part of a bid by Barghouti — a favorite to replace aging Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas — to burnish his credentials in an internal Palestinian power struggle.
On the subject of US-Israel relations, Shaked said that she was looking forward with optimism to the presidency of new White House occupant Donald Trump, whom she described as a “very clever and a very sharp businessman.” The government in Israel and the Trump administration “see the global issues eye to eye,” she noted. “We both know how to describe radical Islamic terror, we know what the problem is.”
The new administration, she added, presents “a huge opportunity for Israel and United States to strengthen the security connection and the civilian connection.”
Shaked, however, is deeply skeptical of the president’s more recent forays into the arena of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. “I think that he will know in a few weeks or a few months that the gaps are much too big and there will be no deal in the current years,” she predicted. “The majority of people in Israel think that the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines is a catastrophe for Israel and this government is definitely not going to do that.”
“I think it’s a waste of time, I think it’s the wrong direction,” she concluded.
Her suggestion, instead, is for the Israeli government to “use this historical moment… to try and think out of the box — not repeating again the two-state solution mantra.”
Shaked suggested exploring a plan that her own party has put forward which includes “the application of Israeli law” in Area C of the West Bank as defined under the Oslo Accords, and perhaps turning Areas A and B, as well as Jordan, into a “Palestinian confederation.”
To left-wing critics of her views on peacemaking, Shaked has one message: “The very liberal Jews who think that I’m a fascist… so I just recommend they come to Israel, to visit, to meet with us, to meet with even the settlers in Judea and Samaria and to get to know us… I am sure that if they will talk with us they will learn that we don’t have horns… and that Israel has become an even stronger democracy in recent years.”
She added, “I’m not saying that they will vote Jewish Home (the English name of HaBayit HaYehudi). I’m just saying that all this prejudice and… all the distorted things that they are thinking about the Israeli government and the Jewish Home will disappear.”
Shaked is also passionate about her work to improve the lot of Israel’s Arab citizens. “This government is the government that works the most for the Israeli Arabs,” she asserted. “Personally, when I entered office, I set a goal to build a court in an Arab village. There was never any Arab court in any Arab village.” She also opened a new sharia court, the first such event in 16 years, and recently appointed Israel’s first ever female judge to serve in a Muslim court.
One issue under her jurisdiction that Shaked is confident won’t become a point of contention between Israel and the United States is the legal proceedings surrounding the Israeli-American teenager suspected of making over a hundred bomb threat calls to American Jewish institutions during the last several months.
In April, Israel reportedly declined a US extradition request after handing down a lengthy indictment.
“Since he did so many crimes in Israel, and also crimes around the world in different countries, 11 countries, so we don’t see a reason to extradite him, only to put him on trial in Israel,” she explained. “We are talking with them [the Americans] all the time. We are giving them all the details in a very transparent way. They were involved all along the way with the investigation and everything, so I think it will be fine.”
Later this week, the justice minister will make her way to Washington, DC, where she will meet with her American counterpart, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In a speech at the Jerusalem Post conference on Sunday, Shaked told attendees she was hopeful Sessions would “continue the fight he began in the Senate against the nuclear arms deal with Iran” among other areas of cooperation with Israel.
On the “proposed move of the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem… President Trump doesn’t need to do anything,” Shaked pointed out. “On June 1st, if he doesn’t sign a waiver, the embassy will need to move to Jerusalem according to American law.”
“I think the Trump administration will continue to positively surprise us,” she said.