Marwan Barghouti or the Whirlwind
Fatah militants have decided to inject new blood into this historic Palestinian movement by displacing the old guard during the primaries organized last Friday which will determine the Fatah candidates for the legislative elections scheduled for January 25th. It was the result of pressure from the new guard, seeking to do shake up the faction’s leadership, that primaries have been introduced to select the 132 candidates to the Legislative Council from among the more than a thousand hopefuls. The Fatah organization had been accustomed to name the candidates since the era of Yassir Arafat. But this time, the candidates will be chosen by the 463,000-member party following, who have been critical of the impotence and corruption of the current leadership.
In Ramallah, Marwan Barghouti, the icon of the new generation, won the vote despite the life sentence that he is serving inside an Israeli jail. Mr. Barghouti, who is a Palestinian MP, received 96% of vote cast, or 7,000 votes, taking a commanding lead in the field of 45 candidates in his district. He will play a central role in countering the Islamists of Hamas during the legislative elections. His incarceration has no effect on his importance on the Palestinian political chessboard.
The victory scored by Mr. Barghouti is equivalent to a veritable plebiscite—he may actually head the list of Fatah candidates by pulling in front of Prime Minister Ahmed Qoreï, say party officials. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has called for an end to armed struggle, could conceivably share a ticket with Mr. Barghouti to prevent the radical Islamists of Hamas from taking a bite out of the Fatah party base. For the wife of Mr. Barghouti, the results of the primary express clear-cut support for armed struggle.
Despite the five consecutive life terms to which he has been sentenced, an Israeli minister does not exclude that Mr. Barghouti may be one day released as the result of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. In politics, never say never, quipped Israeli Transportation Minister Meïr Shetrit, who has just joined Kadima, the new party founded by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. However, the Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sylvan Shalom, categorically excluded the release of Mr. Barghouti.
An Israeli military tribunal has condemned yet another Palestinian MP and Fatah member, Hossam Khader, to seven years in prison for transfer of fund to “terrorist organizations”. Mr. Khader is the second Palestinian MP to be imprisoned in Israel, after Mr. Barghouti.
[From L'Orient-Le Jour]