Israel on Monday stepped up its bid to undermine Palestinian hunger strike leader Marwan Barghouti, publishing a list of his demands that it said include access to 20 television channels and air conditioning
Barghouti, serving five life terms for a series of terror attacks during the Second Intifada, laid out 19 requests in a letter sent to Prisons Service head Commissioner Ofrah Klinger.
The letter was dictated to another prisoner, who hand-wrote it in Hebrew, media reported.
Led by Barghouti, hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners have been on a hunger strike in Israeli jails since April 17.
Israeli authorities say 894 Palestinian prisoners have kept up the strike, while Palestinian officials say more than 1,000 are refusing food and anything but salt water in protest of prison conditions.
They have been demanding improved conditions in Israeli jails, with Barghouti even alleging abuses in the prisons.
But Israel says prisoners’ conditions meet all international standards and released the letter of demands to show how soft they were.
Among the demands Barghouti made are 20 channels of television, unrestricted books and magazines, air conditioning, a greater selection of items available for purchase in the canteen, family visits, the restarting of open university studies, public telephone use, and annual medical checks for prisoners.
“The document shows how over the top the demands are, no country in the world would enter into negotiations with prisoners for such demands and certainly Israel, which is in a campaign against the terror organizations, will not agree to surrender to extortion and damage its deterrent against terrorists,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a rare statement last week that it is Israel’s responsibility to ensure prisoners receive family visits. Human rights groups say it is a violation of international law to move prisoners from occupied territories to detention centers in Israel, which also makes it more difficult for relatives to visit the inmates.
Some see the hunger strike as a strategic political move by Barghouti, who it is believed is wanting to demonstrate his influence on the Palestinian street ahead of a bid to succeed PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
According to a Channel 2 assessment, Barghouti had no expectation that the demands would be met and only presented the letter as way of drumming up support from other prisoners and on the Palestinian street.
Barghouti was allowed to meet with his lawyer Khader Shkirat on Sunday for three hours, for the first time since initiating the hunger strike on April 17.
The attorney said his client denied the authenticity of a video released by the Israel Prisons Service last week purportedly showing Barghouti secretly eating a candy bar in his cell.
Israeli Prison Service spokesman Asaf Librati said the video of Barghouti eating a candy bar was authentic and was taken in his current cell.
He said that Barghouti faced some “punitive measures” for breaking prison rules by staging the hunger strike, but that his conditions and those of the other prisoners met international standards.
Librati pointed to the visits by the Red Cross and lawyer as proof that “we have nothing to hide concerning his treatment here.” He accused Barghouti’s lawyer of stating “incorrect facts.”
Agencies contributed to this report.