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Labor party infrastructure minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, who usually has a sober grip on reality, added his voice to those calling for the release of Marwan Barghouti, which supposedly is the only way to bring peace. Quoth Ben Eliezer:

At this rate Hamas will soon take over the West Bank. The only person who could put a stop to that is Barghouti.

Ben-Eliezer misses the point What matters to Israel, is not who controls what in the Palestinian Authority, but rather what policy Fatah and the PLO will follow regarding Israel and the peace negotiations.

Barghouti never hid his vision of "peace" and he has been consistent about three elements: Right of return of the Palestinian refugees, no compromise at all on Jerusalem, and the "right" of resistance if his demands are not met. Of course, exercise of "right" of return of the refugees would mean the end of the Jewish state. In a 1998 interview with Aaron Lerner of IMRA, Barghouti said:

...I think that the issue of Jerusalem is the core of the peace process in the Middle East. If the Israelis accept everything except Jerusalem then the peace process will collapse.

What is the meaning of a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital? It would mean having a state composed of some village here and there and refugee camps. The soul of the Palestinian state will be Jerusalem.

IMRA: When you say 'Jerusalem' you mean all of Jerusalem beyond the 1967 line?

Barghouti: Yes, yes. Of course.

IMRA; There is no compromise on that.

Barghouti: Yes. Of course. I don't think that we have to make compromise after this. I prefer to live without peace and continue to fight without accepting a compromise on Jerusalem.

IMRA; If the PA had Al Aksa Mosque and other areas in eastern Jerusalem but not all of eastern Jerusalem?

Barghouti: Eastern Jerusalem is not just Al Aksa.

I am not a religious man. Jerusalem for me is the important thing as a Palestinian. It is the title of Palestine. And also from a geographical point of view it is very important, for example, for the South and North of the West Bank. Jerusalem united the Palestinians over history. It is the symbol of the Palestinian people.

In a previous interview, Barghouti said:

You know that the Palestinian people are not ready to understand any change in the 1967 borders. Because the Palestinians consider themselves that they made an historical compromise when they accepted the Israeli state and they recognized it in the 1967 borders. So it's not logical for them to accept the division of the West Bank or to give up any part of the West Bank.

In 1999, Barghouti had this to say about Right of Return:

There is no compromise on Jerusalem, settlements or the right of return.

IMRAL: Maybe there will be a compromise about the right of return ' that they have the right to return to Ramallah but not to Jaffa.

Barghouti: You know that the right to return to Ramallah to the Palestinian state does not mean exercising the right of return. Because there are refugees living now in Ramallah, Nablus and Gaza. Yes or no?

IMRA: You mean people living there who came from Jaffa.

Barghouti: Exactly...

IMRA: And you don't see a compromise within which a limited group within the framework of family unification comes in and the rest get some kind of compensation.

Barghouti: No. No. No. I don't think that that is a compromise. If you mean an historical compromise acceptable to the Palestinians and the entire Arab world then we are talking of the complete right of return...

IMRA: There are those who say that in the long run ' with the right of return etc. ' that there will in the end be one state between the Jordan and the Sea.

Barghouti: This would be the best compromise...

Barghouti was as good or as bad as his word. In September 2000, it was he who organized the "spontaneous" outbreak of violence. He told the newspaper Al Ayyam:

"... I saw within the situation a historic opportunity to ignite the conflict. The strongest conflict is the one that is initiated from Jerusalem..."

"...After Sharon left, I had stayed in the area for two hours with other well known people and we spoke about the character of the reaction and of how people should react in all the towns and villages and not only in Jerusalem. We made contact with all the factions."

"... I prepared a proclamation on behalf of the high Fatah committee in coordination with the brothers in which we called upon the people to react to what happened in Jerusalem. When I came back to Ramallah I continued the talks with the contacts I had gathered around me regarding the character of our activity and the continuation of the reaction. Source: Al-Ayyam, December 6, 2000, see The peace process is dead, Long live the peace process

Barghouti quickly organized and headed the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, as well as the "National and Islamic Front." He was arrested in 2002 and convicted of giving the green light for numerous murderous terror attacks on civilians.

For the Palestinians, Barghouti would almost certainly solve the problem of national unity. The National and Islamic front was an indication of Barghouti's ongoing commitment to Palestinian unity, as is the Prisoners' letter issued in 2006. The National and Islamic front seemed an unlikely coalition. Its Web site included both Marxist and Islamic groups. In two or three clicks, one could equally well get to a Hadith about martyrdom or to a speech by Josef Stalin. The Prisoners' letter, undoubtedly reflecting Bargouti's thinking, clarifies the goals that Barghouti would seek once released from jail:

1- the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the Diaspora seek to liberate their land and to achieve their right in freedom, return and independence and to exercise their right in self determination, including the right to establish their independent state with al-Quds al-Shareef as its capital on all territories occupied in 1967 and to secure the right of return for the refugees and to liberate all prisoners and detainees based on the historical right of our people on the land of the fathers and grandfathers and based on the UN Charter and the international law and international legitimacy.

2- to work quickly on achieving what has been agreed upon in Cairo in March 2005 pertaining to the development and activation of the PLO and the joining of Hamas and Islamic Jihad Movements to the PLO which is the legitimate and sole representative of the Palestinian people wherever they are located...

3- the right of the Palestinian people in resistance and clinging to the option of resistance with the various means and focusing the resistance in the occupied territories of 1967 alongside with the political action and negotiations and diplomatic action and continuation of popular and mass resistance against the occupation in its various forms and policies and making sure there is broad participation by all sectors and masses in the popular resistance.

It is clear from the above that Barghouti has no intention of compromising on his principles, and unlike Mahmoud Abbas, disregards the Oslo agreements and the commitment to non-violence. "Resistance" means terror attacks, as Barghouti and his associates have illustrated in dozens of cases. Likewise, Barghouti's interpretation of "Right of Return" and of international law cannot be in doubt. In Barghouti's recent letter to Peace Now, he wrote:

"I, Marwan Barghouti, am telling you that I and the majority of the Palestinian people are ready for a historic agreement based on international decisions that will allow a Palestinian and Israeli state to coexist, side by side, in peace and stability..."

. Based on everything that he has said until now, there can be no doubt that "international decisions" means full right of return, and that his positions on the borders and Jerusalem have not changed. Remember, Barghouti previously clarified precisely what he means by "historic compromise" with respect to the refugee problem:

If you mean an historical compromise acceptable to the Palestinians and the entire Arab world then we are talking of the complete right of return...

Likewise, Barghouti explained that a one-state solution, which would be the end result of this migration, would be the "best compromise."

What then, could possibly be gained by releasing Barghouti? Ron Ben Yishai explains that the release of Barghouti will be a tremendous victory for Hamas, since he would be released as part of the swap of several hundred Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit, kidnapped and held in Gaza. Somehow, we are supposed to believe that this will weaken the Hamas.

And what will Israel get? Ben-Yishai explains that Israel will get back Shalit, and he thinks that is a good deal. Yishai is actually serious about considering this deal, and is not writing ironically at all:

...It is difficult to say whoís right. But nonetheless, because of Gilad Shalit, it is worthwhile to favorably consider Marwan Barghoutiís release.

It is easy, in fact, to say who is right. The price of releasing Shalit will be a united Palestinian leadership that insists on right of return of the refugees quite literally, and insists on evacuating all of Jerusalem and every other "settlement" including Gush Etzion, and even return of Latrun, on the road to Jerusalem which the Palestinians claim, and which controls the road to Jerusalem. When these demands are not met, Israel would be faced with a new intifada, as the Palestinian leadership "clings to the right of resistance." That will be the price paid to get back Gilad Shalit. Hundreds of victims everywhere in Israel, and dozens of Gilad Shalits kidnapped in order to free their killers.

Perhaps someone up there knows something that I don't know. I used to believe that must be so. Events of the past few years have disabused me of that notion. It seems to me that releasing Barghouti is definitely the deal of the century for Israel, if we really are intent on national suicide.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000527.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 4 Comments

"Barghouti didn't make a public statement himself and we do not know what he told Oron, or if Oron understood his meaning correctly."

Why in the world would Haim Oron say Barghouti did not support the Geneva Initiative if he did not really support it. Furthermore, given that Oron has been in the political arena for many years, I think he would be intelligent enough to know what Barghouti was saying.

Greg, Wednesday, April 16th

See Greg, that's why the credibility of the peace camp is so low.

The link you provide has Haim Oron coming out of a private meeting and telling reporters that Barghouti said he supports Geneva. Barghouti didn't make a public statement himself and we do not know what he told Oron, or if Oron understood his meaning correctly.

The positions Ami attributes to Barghouti were not made in the 90's nor in the 40's (when Uri Aveneri was in the Irgun). They were made in the present decade and the last few years. As far as we can tell from these most recent statements Bahrgouti holds the Palestinian opening position of full withdrawl to the 67 borders including Jerusalem + right of return. He has not made statements indicating a change in position, but in fact reiterated it.
The policy he supports (as stated by him during the election and in the prisoner's document) is that the Palestinians should combine negotiations with 'armed resistance'. i.e. the continued attacks on Israel as negotiations take place.

I really don't understand why supporting peace or opposing the occupation has to also include viewing Bahrgouti through rose tinted glasses.

Micha, Tuesday, April 15th

Who cares about what Barghouti said in the 90's. Uri Avnery once fought for the Irgun and 5 years ago Ami Isseroff acknowledged that the Palestinians were human beings. People Change! In more recent years Barghouti has stated that he would agree to a peace agreement along the lines of the Geneva Initiative, which calls for a compromise on the right of return. http://www.geneva-accord.org/News.aspx?docID=2768&FolderID=42&lang=en

Greg, Tuesday, April 15th

Somebody tell Barghouti that he is out of his tiny mind. Jerusalem is to the Jews as Lhasa is to the Tibetans. The Arab/ Muslim claim to Jerusalem is about as 'just' as the Chinese claim to Lhasa - that is, it is not just at all, it is a claim based solely and simply upon the brutality of invasion, conquest and imperial occupation. They conquered it; they ruined it; and they d*** well lost it to its original owners when said owners returned and fought them for it. The arrogance of the Arab Muslims, demanding ALL of Jerusalem, Judaism's national and spiritual focus, as a war trophy with which to humiliate the Jews, is like that of a thief demanding back the car or the house or the horse that he stole, which the rightful owner has gotten back from him in a fair fight - a thief stamping and screaming that since HE stole it, HE, the Ubermensch who does not have to bow to common human rules, HE has a divine right to keep it.

S McCosker, Monday, April 14th

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