As part of their tit-for-tat negotiations with Israel, Palestinians have demanded the release of political prisoner Marwan Barghouti.
Barghouti was arrested in 2002, and convicted by an Israeli court in 2004. He is serving five life sentences, one for each of the murders he is allegedly responsible for, though Barghouti continues to deny allegations that he directly ordered the killings.
Barghouti’s case is a controversial one because despite a significant number of Israelis viewing him as a terrorist, many people, both Israelis and Palestinians, believe he may be their best hope for arriving at a two-state solution.
The Guardian reports Fadwa Barghouti, Marwan’s wife, visits him twice a month for 45 minutes at a time. She brings him books -- he reads voraciously -- news of their grown children, and updates on the peace talks. Several times throughout Barghouti’s imprisonment, the possibility of negotiations for his release have arisen, yet still he remains behind bars.
"He has spent 18 years of his life in an Israeli prison. He was deported for seven years. It has been a long and horrible journey," says Fadwa. "Despite all this he believes the conflict should be resolved by a two-state solution. He does not believe there is an alternative in a one-state solution except more bloodshed and more agony."
According to Ziad Abu Ein, his longtime friend and colleague, Barghouti advocates civil disobedience, not armed struggle, to protest Israel’s occupation.
These renewed calls for Marwan Barghoudi’s release come at a time when Barghoudi has gained considerable political clout as an iconic Palestinian figure. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas even asked President Obama to put pressure on Israel to release Barghouti during his visit to the White House last week.
Perhaps because Barghouti seems his likely successor.
Barghouti has tremendous public support -- News of Barghouti’s potential release swayed Palestinian opinion, from 75 percent being against talks with Israel to 50 percent now supporting negotiations -- and is a strong candidate to replace Mahmoud Abbas as president of Palestine, a development that could make his continued imprisonment a politically compromising position for Israel.
Speaking to the Guardian, Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli politician long opposed to Marwan’s incarceration, said, “If Mahmoud Abbas does not stand again for president and Barghouti does run, he will win easily. Then Israel will have the Palestinian president in jail."