BLOG 305 June 6, 2016

Last week’s blog brought a number of responses. Most people in the West have never heard the name of Marwan Barghouti – and yet he’s now the leading candidate to replace Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmond Abbas. A number of people responded, “Tell us more.”

Of course, Barghouti is currently sitting in an Israeli jail and could be there for decades to come. Consequently, his wife now calls him the Nelson Mendala of Palestine. That’s pushing the envelope a tad, but gives us a taste of what could be ahead. Should Barghouti be elected to replace Abbas, Israel would be placed in a difficult bind. The Palestinians would love it!

This abnormally could be his strongest selling point. Rather than slipping through the cracks and disappearing, Marwan could turn out to be the leader of the band. Should such occur, remember that you first heard the possibility here.

Way back in the last century, Barghouti was a supporter of the 1994 Oslo Accords and making peace with Israel. In 1995, Yasser Arafat founded the Tanzim militia to counter the development of Hamas and similar fighting groups. Barghouti was a leader in this effort. At that time, he was rather friendly with Israelis. However, when the second Intifada exploded in 2,000, he commanded the Aksa Martyrs’ Brigade and shot it out in the thick of the fighting. Those efforts cost the lives of five Israelis and put Marwan in jail with five life sentences. He called himself a patriot; the Israelis called him a terrorist.

Should he get elected, get ready for international pressure to mount on Israel to let him go. The right wing in Israeli politics would scream that a man with blood on his hands should never see the light of day no matter what the world and the UN say. How would the two countries ever work together? Actually, they already are.

Interestingly enough, there is a continuing positive relationship between the PA’s security services and the Shin Bet Agency (Israel’s NSA). During the past year, there were over 80 meetings between these two groups at the level of colonel and higher. These exchanges have proven to be an important piece in Israel and Palestinian security. Of course, these meetings don’t make the headlines, but they remain important.

The Palestinians need Israel for their own economic survival. At least 100,000 Palestinians earn a living inside Israel. Since the PA continues to struggle and would be bankrupt if they depended entirely on income only from within their state, they can ill afford to lose this remuneration. More than half of the PA’s budget comes from the salaries received from Palestinian citizen’s income tax statements – forms that Israel supplies to the PA. If elected, Marwan Berghouti could say anything he wishes, but he certainly wouldn’t touch these two relationships.

The name of Barwan Berghouti is worth remembering. He could turn into the next dark cloud handing over Israel’s head. On the other hand, the man could die in prison. What will it be?

Stay tuned.

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