Israel Knocks Jailed Palestinian Arch Terrorist Barghouti off His High Horse
On Tuesday, June 14, France’s Le Monde newspaper published an interview with Marwan Barghouti, the jailed leader of Fatah’s Tanzim paramilitary arm. The headline described this high-profile terrorist, who is serving five life sentences for the murder of hundreds of Israelis, as “A Palestinian Mandela or Israel’s Worst Nightmare.”
The article describes his situation as follows:
“One of the three men locked up in cell number 28 at the Hadarim prison, he loves reading. Whether it’s in Arabic, Hebrew or English, he devours history books, poetry collections and biographies of famous Israeli leaders. He wants to know the way they think.”
“Marwan Barghouti, 56, takes care of himself. He walks and runs. Once a week, he meets with one of his lawyers. Once every two weeks, his wife Fadwa visits and tells him about their four children. In 14 years, he's gotten to see them just a few times.”
Le Monde was not to know that a week before the article was published, many of the Palestinian arch terrorist’s privileges were cancelled. The directive came from top Israeli officials and IDF military high-ups, DEBKA Weekly’s sources in Jerusalem report, as a strong signal aimed at deterring the Tanzim command from ordering its activists to jump into the current wave of Palestinian terror after months of debate.
Far from the image of “Palestinian Mandela” conferred on him by the French daily, Barghouti was convicted and given multiple life sentences in 2004 for his role in orchestrating and participating in hundreds of terrorist murders during the 2000-2004 Second Palestinian Intifada war against Israel. He was head of Tanzim, the Fatah’s terrorist arm that was responsible for hundreds of Israeli deaths.
In early June, he was removed from his roomy cell at Hadarim to the high-security Ramon Prison, 40 kilometers south of Beersheba, where he was dumped in a cell with eight other prisoners. He can no longer have frequent visits from friends – only close family – and his phone calls are limited to the quota allowed ordinary convicts.
In the Le Monde interview, Barghouti bragged: “Israel will have to release me, me and the others. During these last decades, it has already happened, thanks to the exchange of prisoners or through political discussion.”
But his confidence seems to have dissipated with his transfer to Ramon Prison.
There is a standing Israel decision never to set Barghouti free. Successive governments in Jerusalem rejected every demand to release him. In one prisoner swap deal after another with the Palestinian Authority and Hizballah, Israel declared that these negotiations would be suspended if his release was presented as a condition for their continuation.
Surprisingly, as DEBKA Weekly’s sources point out, none of the Tanzim leader’s Palestinian champions or sympathizers in certain European political circles has uttered a word of protest against the worsening of his conditions in jail. They have evidently given up on the campaign they conducted for many years to build the arch terrorist up as the Palestinian version of the South African anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.
For many years too, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority Chairman was depicted by Ramallah insiders as a transitional figure, while Barghouti was the real Palestinian leader in waiting, who would take charge when he was freed.
According to a recent poll by a Ramallah-based think tank, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 33% of Palestinians regard Barghouti as the successor of Abbas, while 24% prefer Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip.
Under Palestinian Authority rule, the people are never asked to choose their leaders, so the poll figures should be taken with a pinch of salt.
At all events, Abbas and most Palestinian leaders have no wish to see Barghouti back in the saddle and, if anything, are relieved to see him removed a further step from release – although they will not admit as much in public.
But most of all, Israel has acted to prevent him reaching any position of authority by cutting him off from his supporters in a high-security jail and treating him like a common criminal.