Thursday, December 02, 2004

Top Palestinians Try to Discourage Barghouti Run

Top Palestinians Try to Discourage Barghouti Run
“Senior Palestinian figures in the main political grouping, Fatah, closed ranks today against the off-again, on-again presidential candidacy of the popular Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail.

The old guard was joined by some prominent younger militants of Fatah's Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, who once saw Mr. Barghouti, 45, as their leader but now criticize him as putting himself above Palestinian unity.

Mr. Barghouti's decision on Wednesday to revive the candidacy he had publicly foresworn threatens to split Fatah, which had unanimously nominated Mahmoud Abbas, 69, who has already succeeded Yasir Arafat as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization.”

Mr. Abbas is a relative moderate who has consistently and publicly opposed violence as counterproductive to the Palestinian goal of a viable, independent state. Mr. Barghouti, by contrast, like his mentor Mr. Arafat, supports violence as a tactic and is considered the father of the last four years of the intifada.

As such, Mr. Barghouti is popular with young militants who have grown up under Israeli occupation and who want a stronger voice in Palestinian decision-making. They feel they have lost their father and main supporter in Mr. Arafat, and that Mr. Abbas is already betraying the Arafat legacy.

Palestinian opinion is hard to gauge, because so many people say they are undecided rather than state their preferences. But the current Palestinian and Israeli leadership clearly fears that Mr. Abbas, a dry man in a suit who has little experience as a politician, might very well lose to Mr. Barghouti, or do badly enough in the field of 10 candidates that the election undermines his authority rather than enhancing it.

In fact, Mr. Barghouti has many Israeli friends and also favors a peace settlement with Israel on terms not very different from Mr. Abbas. But the election of a Palestinian president who has blessed attacks against Israeli civilians, and has been convicted for ordering them, would make it almost impossible for the government of Ariel Sharon to negotiate seriously.

On the other hand, it just might be that the Palestinians are the ones who have no partner for peace. It's a question of opening your eyes to what America and Israel are actually doing, instead of what they're saying.
con·cept: Top Palestinians Try to Discourage Barghouti Run