Israel has been grooming convicted killer Marwan Barghouti to become the next Palestinian Authority leader, holding a series of clandestine meetings with him, incarcerated Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who media reports claim may be part of a prisoner exchange involving Barghouti, told WorldNetDaily.
Israeli officials said last week they may release several jailed Palestinians as a “goodwill gesture” toward the future PA leadership. There have been a few reports that Barghouti, who was recently sentenced in Israel to five life terms for planning gun ambushes and a suicide bombing, may be considered for release, but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is said to have rejected the idea. Reports list Barghouti as the widely favored candidate for PA president.
Even with Jerusalem officially dismissing the possibility of releasing Barghouti, Israeli Interior Minister Avraham Poraz speculated last week, “We are looking for a partner for the Gaza withdrawal. It seems that this will have to include releasing prisoners … [perhaps even] including Barghouti.”
Israel’s Army Radio also quoted unnamed Israeli officials speculating Barghouti could be released.
Barghouti is serving multiple life terms for his role in the killings of four Israelis and a Greek monk. Israeli security sources also tell WorldNetDaily Barghouti was one of the architects of the current intifada, the terrorist war waged on Israel after Arafat, at Camp David in 2000, turned down an offer of a Palestinian State in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Pollard’s name has been publicly mentioned as a possible “American gesture” in a three-way prisoner exchange that would release Barghouti, allowing him to run in PA elections, and could also involve Egypt releasing imprisoned Israeli textile engineer Azzam Azzam.
But in an explosive development, Pollard, who today begins his 20th year of incarceration at the U.S. federal prison in Butner, N.C., for spying for Israel, has composed a speech to be delivered on his behalf in Jerusalem at a demonstration rally planned for later today. It states Israel has held clandestine meetings with Barghouti throughout the Palestinian leader’s imprisonment, and has been grooming Barghouti as a candidate to succeed the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
In the speech, obtained in advance exclusively by WorldNetDaily, Pollard claims, “Officially Israel insists it will never free Marwan Bargouhti. He is a murderer sentenced to multiple life sentences. Freeing him, they claim, would undermine the rule of law. Unofficially, sources, including one very close to the prime minister, admit that Israel has been grooming Barghouti in prison to be the next leader of the Palestinian people.”
Pollard says that “when news of the proposed three-way deal broke, my close contacts began to investigate, and learned important things from reliable sources in the U.S. and Israel.”
“It is an open secret in Israel that top officials have been secretly meeting with Barghouti throughout his incarceration. He is taken out of his prison cell and brought to clandestine locations for these meetings, to enlist his help in promoting various initiatives with the Palestinians, such as cease fires. These secret sessions are part of the ‘grooming’ process,” says Pollard.
Pollard says sources told his contacts that Israel, not the PA or Barghouti’s military Tanzim, leaked the story last week about Pollard and the talks aimed at putting together the three-way swap for Barghouti’s release.
“Officially, Israel reviles Barghouti and dismisses any possibility of releasing him. Unofficially, Sharon’s Government and his closest people believe Barghouti is someone that they can work with, someone who can control the Palestinian street. They see him as someone who can unite the warring factions among the Palestinian militias and hold them in check.”
Pollard says sources told him Israel has been supplying positive material to the media about Barghouti.
“More than just whitewashing Barghouti, Israel is seeking to create the impression that there is such popular support amongst the Palestinian people for Barghouti that it cannot be resisted or denied. This is an attempt to create an atmosphere where the U.S. feels it must step in and direct events. The Americans can then ‘force’ Israel to release Barghouti, and Israel can do so with ‘clean hands,'” says Pollard.
Pollard says Arab public opinion prevents Israel from releasing Barghouti outright, and has resulted in Israeli officials seeking Pollard’s release.
“Israel must make it appear that it is being forced to free Barghouti, and that a high price has been paid for his release. Unless Israel gains something very valuable in return for Barghouti, the Palestinian ‘street’ will consider him a traitor, a collaborator, an Israeli stooge; his credibility will be zero and his life in danger,” says Pollard.
“There are not many high-priced bargaining chips left, and fewer yet, of great value that won’t cost the Palestinians anything. They want to use my release as that chip.”
Pollard says he is “completely opposed” to the possibility of being released from prison in a deal that would also release Barghouti, whom he refers to as “a mass murderer of Jews.”
“I have always been opposed to gaining my freedom in exchange for the release of murderers and terrorists. My position has not changed. I deserve to be released because my sentence is unjust and because the U.S. has promised my release on more than one occasion, including a commitment by the president of the United States at the Wye Summit in 1998.”
“Unfortunately, nothing I say about my own unwillingness to have any part in such a morally degenerate scheme will make any difference. The government will do whatever it must, to get what it wants, regardless of what I or anyone else may say or do.”
Barghouti has been arrested several times, including a four-year stint that began in 1978 for planning terror attacks against Israelis. He was arrested again in 1985 before being deported to Jordan in 1987, where Israel says he played a key role in starting the first Palestinian intifada.
Barghouti was among hundreds of Palestinian deportees allowed to return to the West Bank upon the signature of the Palestinian-Israeli interim Oslo peace accords in 1993. But Israel says he continued to plot several Palestinian attacks, and was instrumental in the founding and supporting of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that carried out several suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.
Denying his involvement with the Aqsa Brigades after his arrest, Barghouti nevertheless praised some of the group’s operations that involved attacks on Israeli military targets, but claimed from his prison cell that he opposed suicide bombings against civilians.
In the speech, Pollard quotes a book recently released by former U.S. envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross, who played a key role in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in which Pollard’s release was reportedly pledged, as evidence of “the way the U.S. has made me into a high-priced political pawn.”
In the book, “The Missing Peace,” Ross writes that at the 1998 Wye River Summit President Clinton asked him if freeing Pollard would be important to Israel. “Yes,” Ross writes he replied, “because he is considered a soldier for Israel and there is an ethos in Israel that you never leave a soldier behind in the field.”
Ross added: “I also said I was in favor of [Pollard’s] release, believing that he had received a harsher sentence than others who had committed comparable crimes. I preferred not tying his release to any agreement …”
But, Pollard says, “no sooner does Ross acknowledge the injustice of my sentence and that I deserve to be freed unconditionally, than he advises the president not to free me. Why? Because of my great value as a political asset and a bargaining chip.”
Ross writes he cautioned the president against releasing Pollard until greater concessions from Israel could be secured during final status talks. “[Pollard’s release] would be a huge payoff [for Israel]; you don’t have many like it in your pocket … You will need it later, don’t use it now,” writes Ross.
“By understanding Ross’ attitude towards me as an asset, not a person,” says Pollard, “it becomes possible for the first time to understand Prime Minister Sharon’s indifference towards me … He too sees me as a political asset, and not as a human being.”
“Sharon is apparently reserving me for a time that my release will be the fig leaf for some very, very dastardly initiative. Perhaps something as dastardly as enabling another mass murderer of Jews to become president of the PA, just as Israel once did for Yasser Arafat,” says Pollard.
Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was convicted in 1985 of one count of passing classified information to an ally, Israel, and sentenced to life imprisonment in spite of a plea agreement that was to spare Pollard a life sentence.
Pollard’s sentence is considered by many to be disproportionate to the crime for which he was convicted – he is the only person in the history of the United States to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally. The median sentence for this particular offense is two to four years.