Israel to Worsen Prisoner Conditions to ‘Pressure Hamas’

As Prisoner Swap Negotiations Fall Through, Israel Looks For Leverage

Talks between Israel’s outgoing Kadima government and Hamas appear to have fallen through, and there will be no prisoner swap to free jailed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in return for hundreds of Hamas detainees. Official rhetoric which emphasized the enormous value of the captured soldier and the relatively little value placed on the average detainee in Israel made for a serious seller’s market for Shalit, and drove the price much higher than the Olmert Administration was willing to pay.

But rather than pass the issue on to the Netanyahu government (which seems inevitable at any rate), Israel is now looking for ways to pressure Hamas into lowering their asking price: mostly by worsening the conditions the Hamas detainees are living under.

Officials will be examining Hamas treatment of Israeli captives and will recommend adjusting their policies accordingly. The primary change is likely to be a ban on all visitors to imprisoned Hamas members. Other changes may follow too, but the ability to significantly worsen the already harsh conditions faced by most of the nation’s detainees may be seriously hampered by considerations of international law.

Moreover, the tactic appears to have an inherent flaw: worsening the conditions of detainees after the government has already made it clear it has no intention of releasing many of them is just perplexing: even if Hamas is appalled by the treatment of their members they have no route to rectify the situation for those they’d consider the most important. In the end by publicly releasing Hamas’ demands and dismissing them out of hand, the outgoing government is likely setting up a situation where the only face-saving move for Hamas will be even less flexibility in negotiations.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.