Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Time to Dust Off Barghouti? I Have Always Said That Israel is Saving Him for the Right Moment; Is That Moment Now?
Ben-Eliezer: Israel should free Barghouti, he is next PA leader
"Imprisoned Fatah boss Marwan Barghouti will become the Palestinians' next leader, Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer recently told Haaretz.
In a holiday interview with Haaretz - which will appear Tuesday - Ben-Eliezer said that he believed that "there is no reason to become alarmed" by the possibility that Barghouti will be released from the Israeli prison system, where he is serving five consecutive life sentences for terrorist activities.
"I would consider releasing him. I think it's a legitimate move, though I believe that his actions were sinister, and I don't take them lightly at all," Ben-Eliezer said.......
Ben-Eliezer says over the past months he had realized Barghouti is probably the best partner Israel has with whom it can hope to achieve a breakthrough in negotiations with the Palestinians.
According to Ben-Eliezer, Barghouti enjoys considerable sway over the situation in Palestinian Authority from within the Hadarim prison facility.
The minister says Barghouti's pull extends to the preparations for the U.S.-sponsored regional peace summit Washington intends to hold in November.
"We have to find a suitable opportunity to release Barghouti, and we have to link it to the release of Gilad Shalit," the minister said. Ben-Eliezer was referring to the Israel Defense Forces soldier Hamas had abducted more than a year ago from the southern Gaza Strip.
"I know this hard to cope with. But we have to look 10 years down the line, and ask ourselves where we want to go," the minister, who has known Barghouti for many years, said. "