Friday, September 28, 2007

Is Marwan Barghouti the Solution?

We're having another long weekend, with no newspaper every second day, fewer reporters every day, newspaper editors who are filling their editions with commentary because that's easier to generate than reports from the field. This will continue for another ten days or so.

On Wednesday Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, mostly known as Fuad, gave an interview that supplied some excitement. At the moment Fuad is the Minister of Infrastructure, an unnecessary ministry that was created for coalitional reasons about ten years ago and will exist forever more; Fuad's importance, however, is that he's probably the closest ally of Ehud Barak, and Barak, we all know, intends to be our next prime minister (as do a number of other people, but Barak may actually succeed). Like Barak, Fuad is a hawk in the Labor party (and also an ex-general).

Anyway, Fuad's thesis is that Abbas will never be able to supply the goods, and the only chance for achieving peace with the Palestinians is to free Marwan Barghouti from jail and deal with him. Unlike Abbas, so Fuad, Barghouti will be able to win back Gaza from Hamas, and while admittedly he has been convicted on five counts of murder, no Palestinian is as bad as Arafat was, and since we dealt with him we can deal with anyone who's willing to deal with us.

There are two unarticulated assumptions here. The first is that Palestinian democracy will never come up with an elected leadership that will be able to cut a feasible deal with Israel- only a strongman can do that. The second is that Barghouti, born and raised in the West Bank, doesn't care about the Palestinian diaspora to the degree that Abbas does, and he'll be willing to reach an agreement with Israel without insisting on the right of return.

This morning Avi Issacharoff engages Fuad's thesis. I've mentioned Issacharoff in the past as the single most professional journalist at Haaretz - I'd call him world-class except that I don't think there are many journalists elsewhere with his professionalism - certainly not when it comes to knowing about the Palestinians. According to Issacharoff, Bargouti is in jail for good reasons, having been one of the central engineers of the Palestinian violence earlier this decade, and there's no indication that he has changed.

To which I would add that this may be the reason he's so very popular among his public.

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