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Talking to Barghouti

Ze'ev Schiff

When Marwan Barghouti, one of the most outstanding Palestinian leaders, was arrested, it was obvious that one of the goals of the interrogators was to use him to implicate Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat of being directly involved with terror. The assumption was that Barghouti was likely to be tempted to pave the path to national leadership for himself by this means. But Barghouti rejected all such attempts.

Some people thought that through Barghouti, there might be an opportunity to open a quiet track to indirect negotiations with the Palestinian leadership. But one attempt to suggest this to the Prime Minister was enough to make it clear that Ariel Sharon wouldn't accept such a proposal.

It stood in contradiction to his strategy - unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip.

And thus, everything focused on Barghouti's trial. His conviction was facilitated by his declaration that in the present situation, the Palestinians will continue to engage in violence. His argument that the Israeli court had no authority to try him was not accepted. And rightly so.

However, we cannot dismiss the possibility that Barghouti may be a worthy negotiating partner.

At present, Israel has no Palestinian address for negotiations. Not Arafat, not Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), not PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan, and not former Prime Minister Mohammed Abbas (Abu Mazen). The truth is that Sharon isn't interested in such an address. Such a tactic can be used occasionally; but one gets the impression that for Sharon it has become a principle. The formula that there will be no negotiations is in any case causing chaos, and an intensification of the occupation is not helping even those focusing on the fight against terrorism.

Neither Israel nor the United States considers Arafat a worthy address for negotiations to end the conflict. Washington's opposition increased after it turned out that the person who masterminded the October bombing of the convoy of American diplomats in the Gaza Strip, in which three Americans were killed, was a Palestinian policeman who was travelling in the convoy.

Other countries that have formal ties with Arafat are not trying to help him, especially when he refuses to implement the security reforms dictated by the Road Map.

In the ensuing vacuum, Barghouti is one of the most authentic and popular leaders of the Palestinian public. He is charismatic and capable of establishing a strong leadership coalition around him, and thereby break the tragic cycle of Palestinian society, which at the moment is incapable of making any major decisions except for using violence.

In spite of everything that has happened, Barghouti believes in peace with Israel - that was my impression during a visit at his office before the Intifada. But along with his call for a peace agreement, he also served as commander of the military arm that answers to Arafat. He refused to hand in the weapons held by the Tanzim organization. His men were involved, as per Arafat's instructions, in the clashes that erupted following the opening of the Western Wall tunnels (in which fifteen Israelis and some sixty Palestinians were killed), as well as in clashes in May 2000.

Now Barghouti is in prison, and it looks like he'll be there for a long time. He will be considered the leader of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners. In spite of the bloody account between him and Israel, he and his family should be treated with proper respect. That is not happening, and he is still isolated from the rest of the prisoners. History has provided us with examples of successful negotiations held by governments with leaders who were held in prison, for example, Nelson Mandela, leader of the blacks in South Africa, and Jomo Kenyatta, leader of the rebels in Kenya. Both eventually became presidents of their countries and great leaders who brought about agreements. Israel must also search for the proper Palestinian exemplar, and it just might be Marwan Barghouti.

Source: Ha’aretz, July 16, 2004 http://www.haaretzdaily.com

Demonstration vor dem Gerichtssaal:
"Barghouti an den Verhandlungstisch, nicht ins Gefängnis!"

Es war eine ziemlich ungewöhnliche Szene heute morgen im Bezirksgericht von Tel-Aviv, als der Barghoutiprozess beginnen sollte...

Ze’ev Schiff:
Talking to Barghouti

In the framework of the current Israeli Palestinian diplomatic deadlock, Ha'aretz Defense Editor Ze’ev Schiff reflects on Israel’s lack of a ‘Palestinian address for negotiations’. According to Schiff; “ [Marwan] Barghouti […] is charismatic and capable of establishing a strong leadership coalition around him, and thereby break the tragic cycle of Palestinian society, which at the moment is incapable of making any major decisions except for using violence.” (Source: Ha’aretz, July 16, 2004)

Tawfiq Abu Baker:
Palestinian Moderation over Thirty Years

Veteran writer and PLC member, Tawfiq Abu Baker reflects back on the role of moderation within the PLO over the past thirty years. Emphasizing the critical role of leaders, Abu Baker calls for a return of a policy of moderation within the Palestinian leadership. (Source: Jenin Center for Strategic Studies, July 26, 2004)

Alexandra J. Wall:
Israeli and Jordanian Activists Plead for the Environment

“Water could be what the next war is based on, but if the countries work together, it could bring peace, too,” commented a Jordanian student from Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. The institute encourages environmental cooperation between peoples working towards sustainable development and peace for the region and the world. (Source: j, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, July 16, 2004)

Daphna Berman:
Israeli and Palestinian Children Try Conflict Resolution through Martial Arts...
In the first program of its kind, Israeli and Palestinian youth learn the principles of conflict resolution through martial arts training. ‘"Martial arts is about creating harmony within one's self and that is the first step toward creating harmony with another person," said Danny Hakim, who founded the Budo for Peace organization.’ (Source: Ha’aretz, July 23, 2004)

Common Ground News Service February 20, 2004
CGNews promotes constructive perspectives and dialogue about current Middle East issues.

From the Common Ground News Service
hagalil.com 22-03-2004



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