Monday, September 26, 2005


Cork trees and cows, Sardinia (photo by my dad)


Sheep in the road (photo by my dad)


At what price Fatah

Danny Rubinstein has an article in Ha'aretz arguing that the release of Marwan Barghouti from Israeli prison is the only way to strengthen Fatah against Hamas in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Rubinstein writes:
There is no doubt that Barghouti is the most popular Fatah figure on the Palestinian street. Ever since he was jailed and sentenced to five life terms plus 40 years, he has received the most support in public opinion polls following Abbas. Even Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar receives less support: In a June 2004 survey, support for Barghouti was twice as high as Zahar's. In a May 2005 survey, support for Barghouti declined, because he had withdrawn his candidacy against Abbas in the elections, but even then, his supporters outnumbered Zahar's.
On the other hand, with Barghouti free, what does Israel really stand to gain by having a Barghouti-led Fatah more powerful than Hamas? Barghouti has consistently challenged the idea that the Palestinians should give up violence as a precondition for negotiations with Israel. He demands a full end to the occupation of 1967. Personally, I think I would see eye-to-eye with Marwan Barghouti much more than I would the leadership of Hamas, especially on the role of religion in society and government, the role of women, etc. But these are not issues that seem to be of much importance to the current Israeli administration or most likely the one that will follow, which are more interested in a Palestinian who will crack down on Hamas and provide security for Israel, as Israel continues to take steps toward retaining large West Bank settlements, etc. I don't think Barghouti will help them in this matter. It's that Sharon or Likud or even Labor care all that much for Fatah, but rather that they found in Fatah (or rather, in Arafat, who dragged Fatah with him) a party willing to attempt to take on Israel's security in the occupied territories in return for a seat at the negotiating table. If Barghouti won't make the same deal (and the fact that he seems unlikely to do so is key to his popularity), then his party affiliation is pretty irrelevant.

In any case, given that Sharon and Netanyahu are duking it out in Likud right now, neither one of them is going to release Barghouti. Instead, Sharon is going to bombard Gaza to prove that he didn't give in to terrorism, thus driving even more Gazans away from Fatah, which can seem to provide it with neither good governance nor security. (I don't mean to imply that Rubinstein doesn't acknowledges this, as he does: "Given Israel's current circumstances, his release is nearly impossible due to power struggles at the top of the Israeli pyramid that will prevent ministers from supporting such a proposal.")

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