Abu Mazen Puts Jailed Terrorists at Top of Fatah List for Coming Palestinian Election

Marwan Barghouthi’s win in the ruling Fatah’s primary vote in Ramallah Saturday Nov. 28, was no surprise. It was carefully scripted by the trio straining to hold the Palestinian Authority from falling apart, Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan and Barghouthi himself. The plan is to place the Fatah firebrand, who is serving multiple life terms for his involvement in the murders of at least five Israelis in terrorist attacks, at the top of the Fatah list of candidates for the Jan. 15, 2006 election to the Palestinian legislative council. According to preliminary results, he scooped 30,000 of the 40,000 Fatah votes in the Ramallah region of the West Bank.
Final results have been delayed by fraud allegations.
The Fatah list was compiled according to two principles:
1. Barghouthi is slated to lead the faction while between one-third and half of the Fatah list for the future Palestinian parliament consists of “activists,” imprisoned in Israel for terrorist attacks. Abu Mazen’s spokesmen are already touting the democratic process as a lever to obtain the release of terrorists from jail.
2. To remove from power the patently corrupt veteran leadership known as the “Tunis faction” installed by Yasser Arafat.
Both these issues are hoped-for vote-getters for Fatah, which desperately needs to divert attention from the ineptness of Abbas’ administration and its spreading corruption.
debkafile‘s Palestinian sources report that Abu Mazen and his aides failed to get the primaries set up in more than a handful of districts, including Ramallah, Jenin, Tubas, Bethlehem and Nablus. Armed Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades gunmen hijacked ballot boxes in some places and set them on fire. An attempt to set a date for voting in the nine remaining districts including Jerusalem, Hebron and the Gaza Strip for Monday failed to get off the ground.
On Fatah voting day, Abu Mazen decided he would be safer in Gaza. He took the opportunity to cut the tape of the newly-opened Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. However, there too, he is hardly a persona grata. Our sources in Gaza report that while he was working in his Gaza office, a wedding party went by and aimed celebratory gunfire at his residence 200m away.
Israeli official spokesmen have emphasized that there is no agenda for Barghouti’s release or amnesty, although one minister conceded it could come up in a comprehensive peace settlement.
Sharon and defense minister Shaul Mofaz have ordered the armed forces and Shin Beit to keep their distance from the Palestinian electoral process. This caveat of this directive applies to Hamas, every election worker of whom on the West Bank is being rounded up as a wanted terrorist. This policy of course renders a helping hand from the Sharon government to Abu Mazen & Co. and their campaign to stuff their slate with young men tried and convicted of violent actions in the five-year Palestinian terrorist confrontation with Israel.
The radical terrorist organizations have borrowed Fatah’s electioneering tactics. Hamas conducted a referendum among its 700 members incarcerated in Beersheba prison on whether to extend by another year the informal partial ceasefire. The question will make the rounds of Ashkelon and the other jails holding Hamas terrorists. The referendum is also doubling as a sort of in-prison primary for Hamas candidates to the January election. Three prisoners’ names are already in the hat.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian has picked its general secretary Ahmed Saadat to top its list of candidates. Saadat is locked up in Jericho jail for orchestrating the 2002 assassination of the Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi at a Jerusalem hotel.
But what will the Sharon government do when the mid-January Palestinian general election produces a national legislative council packed with convicted terrorists serving time in jail?
It can be safely predicted that Abu Mazen, echoed by European governments, will voice outrage and accuse Israel of contempt for the Palestinian democratic process if a third or more of the elected deputies are kept behind bars. They will go running with their complaint to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and the heat will be turned up to force Israel to unlock the prison doors and set the new parliamentarians free.
This tactic is part and parcel of the Abbas strategy of sidestepping a crackdown against Palestinian terrorists and dismantling their organizations (see clause one of the roadmap). He defends his method of weaning terrorists from their violent ways by drawing them into mainstream politics. This tactic was exposed as no better than a gimmick on Nov. 21, when the Lebanese Hizballah, having gained a seat in the Beirut government and representation in parliament, was not deterred from launching a vicious bombardment and kidnap operation across the Lebanese-Israeli border.
Lebanese leader Hassan Nasrallah had clearly not changed his tune one whit since his group was absorbed in national politics. Friday, Nov. 25, he declared publicly that abducting Israeli soldiers was no crime but an “inborn right” and duty.
Abu Mazen, opening the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt Saturday, Nov. 26, kept close harmony with the Hizballah leader. He credited the shaheed (martyrs) with making this achievement possible and added a pledge: The “martyrs” must not rest until a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital was attained.

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