Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Pardon for Barghouti?

The Israelis launched a trial balloon via Dan Izenberg's piece in today's Jerusalem Post, titled "Background: Only Katsav can free Barghouti":

Barghouti had been touted by Palestinians as a possible successor to Yasser Arafat, and as a possible replacement by some Israelis; even after he was captured by the IDF in Ramallah, there were rumors in Israel that the government was grooming him for the job. Before the outbreak of the intifada, Barghouti had been regarded as a moderate who supported the Oslo Accords.

By the time of his capture, however, he had come to be viewed as the most dangerous figure among the non-Islamist forces arrayed against Israel.

Even now, there seems to be ambivalence in Israel regarding Barghouti. It appears that many outside observers and military and government officials still believe he would be the best choice to end the chaos in the PA.

Barghouti clearly has the support of the Palestinian prisoners, who constitute one of the most influential forces in Palestinian society. According to media reports, the prisoners regard Barghouti as their candidate.

But in order for Barghouti to take over the Palestinian leadership, he must first get out of prison, and there is only one way he can do that: President Moshe Katsav must pardon him. Katsav has the sole prerogative to do so according to the Basic Law: The President.

On Sunday, however, Katsav said he sees no reason to do so. The Internet media outlet Ynet quoted Katsav as saying, "I do not think we have to pardon Barghouti just because Arafat has died."

And Village Voice writer
Kareem Fahim and others reported that former Bush 41 secretary of state James Baker ratcheted up the temperature last week when he told CNN's Larry King that Israel should release Barghouti:

"There is now. . . . in an Israeli prison a man named Marwan Barghouti, who is one of the young guard of Palestinians," Baker told King last night, speaking about the post–Yasir Arafat era. "And if the Palestinians are going to make this work against the really hard-line elements, the Islamists and some of the people of Hamas, they're going to have to have a coalition of the young guard and the old guard." (Hat tip to Charles Johnson/Little Green Footballs)

Yeah, right. We'll see ...