Thursday, November 11, 2004


Hamas vs. Barghouti?

In an article exploring the role of Marwan Barghouti in the post-Arafat Palestinian political arena, Amira Hass reports that there is widespread sentiment among the Palestinian prisoner population that only Barghouti can diffuse the support for Hamas and essentially prop up a Fateh government headed by Abu Mazen or Abu Alaa.
Security detainees and Barghouti associates hope that Israel will scrutinize the public opinion surveys, which they feel prove that the Barghouti alone can compete with Hamas representatives planning to run for election. Barghouti himself has held back from announcing whether he intends to participate in elections either for president or for the Palestinian Legislative Council, although it is thought he will run.

Prisoners and confidants expressed hope yesterday that Barghouti will be released, perhaps through understandings with Egypt, because only his return to the political arena can thwart the strengthening of Hamas. They believe that Barghouti is the only person who can provide Mahmoud Abbas with the legitimacy of grass-roots support.
I think there is a lot to this, and that Israel would probably be better served by a Marwan Barghouti playing a key role in a new Palestinian leadership than Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Still, I think that we may not be far enough removed from the Barghouti trial for his release to be a possibility. While there is the possibility of a prisoner release as a "confidence building measure" with a new Palestinian leadership, I think there would need to be a change in the Israeli government before Barghouti would be released (specifically, I don't see it happening with Sharon as Prime Minister).

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