Protest in support of the hunger strking prisoners. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.
"They win a lot of battles and they are happy," said Palestinian Prisoners Society Chairman Qadura Fares about the Likud and Jewish Home parties' reactions to the end of the hunger strike. "They don't understand that step by step, they will bring their state as an isolated appartheid state."
Fares believes there are many lessons to be learned from the failed strike, which aimed to achieve the release of the approximately 200 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons without charges under administrative detention.
Not least of those lessons, he feels, is that harsh Israeli policies on prisoners are doing significant damage to Israel's reputation abroad.
"Israelis will be the main winner if they stop activating [harsh policies on Palestinians] and prepare a special law that respects international parameters. Then [Palestinians] will be the second side that will have an achievement," said Fares.
The hunger strike—at 63 days it is the longest mass strike in Palestinian history—ended Wednesday. Specific terms of the agreement between the prisoners and the Israeli Prison Service will not be released until prisoners have a chance to prepare a statement together in a democratic process, following the restoriation of their health, according to Fares. A statement delineating these terms is expected to be released in the next three to four days.
Though Fares would not concede any specific details of the agreement, he did suggest the media blitz surrounding the three missing settler teens and the expected passage of a bill to legalize the force-feeding of prisoners were factors in the prisoners' decision to end the strike.
The bill, slated to go to vote on Monday, is highly controversial. Force-feeding is considered to be a form of torture under international law. The Israeli Medical Association passionately opposed the bill, imploring doctors to refuse to force-feed regardless of legality.
While the bill is thought to have played a significant role in ending the strike, Fares holds that the prisoners are not viewing the circumstances in such a localized way, suggesting implications of the strike and its end operate on an international level, as well.
"In their decision they had in mind several elements: the Palestinian situation, international situation, regional situation. They don't deal with the hunger strike as a local activity, that will only take place with local elements," said Fares.
Fares doesn’t count the end of strike as complete loss either.
"It will mean that in the future the prisoners will have a white flag... if [Israel doesn't] respect the international parameters or recognize that Palestinian prisoners are human and they have to receive all their rights," Fares said.
Two prisoners are still continuing the strike, Ayman Tbeish, who has been striking for three months, and Moussa Raed, who has been striking for one month.
There are currently more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, of which approximately 200 are in administrative detainees. The number of administrative detainees is expected double as arrests recently made in the crackdown on the West Bank are processed, according to a representative of prisoner and human rights and advocacy group, Addameer.