In a shocking reversal, jailed terrorist Marwan Barghouti decided to take back his earlier pledge to abstain from running in the upcoming Palestinian Authority elections, announcing his candidacy for president as an independent.
A senior Palestinian source told WorldNetDaily the decision comes after a deal brokered earlier this week by Fatah leaders fell through.
Fatah is the Palestinian faction founded by Yasser Arafat.
Last week, Barghouti said he might run in the Palestinian presidential elections as an independent, but 24 hours later withdrew his bid.
WND reported exclusively Barghouti struck a deal with Fatah that would have made him the Palestinian Authority vice president and obligated Fatah to launch a campaign to secure his release from Israeli prison. The deal would have left Fatah’s candidate, former PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, as the front-runner in the Jan. 9 election.
A senior Palestinian source speaking on condition of anonymity told WND: “The deal came apart Monday. Barghouti demanded certain guarantees from Fatah to make sure that after the elections, Abbas would appoint him [vice president]. Barghouti wasn’t satisfied with all the terms of the deal and couldn’t get the guarantees he wanted.”
Reports list Barghouti — recently sentenced in Israel to five life terms for planning gun ambushes and a suicide bombing — as the widely favored candidate for PA president, and his bid to run in the election now poses a major challenge to Abbas, who does not enjoy widespread popular approval.
While Abbas has the backing of the Fatah legislative council, he is considered part of the “old guard” establishment of the Palestinian leadership that returned to Gaza from Tunis with Arafat and is widely disliked by the younger generation of Fatah activists, who favor Barghouti.
Barghouti’s campaign today paid a $3,000 deposit required from independent candidates, and his wife, Fadwa, said she traveled to Ramallah yesterday to submit formal papers for her husband’s candidacy to the Central Election Commission, along with the required 5,000 signatures of support collected by his campaign before a midnight deadline.
“I officially registered him, under the power of attorney I have,” Fadwa told reporters after visiting Barghouti in jail today.
Barghouti’s decision could lead to increased international pressure on Israel to release him in the immediate future.
Israeli officials have said they might release several jailed Palestinians as a “goodwill gesture” toward the future PA leadership.
Israeli Interior Minister Avraham Poraz speculated, “We are looking for a partner for the Gaza withdrawal. It seems that this will have to include releasing prisoners … [perhaps even] including Barghouti.”
There have been talks in diplomatic circles of a three-way prisoner exchange deal that would release Barghouti, allowing him to run in PA elections, and would also involve America releasing Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard and Egypt freeing imprisoned Israeli textile engineer Azzam Azzam.
Pollard told WND 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.”
Pollard accuses Israel of grooming Barghouti to succeed the late PA leader Arafat, holding a series of clandestine meetings with Barghouti throughout his imprisonment.
“Officially, Israel insists it will never free Marwan Barghouti. 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,” said Pollard.
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.
Barghouti is serving multiple life terms for his role in the killings of four Israelis and a Greek monk. Israeli security sources also tell WND 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.
Barghouti has been arrested and jailed 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 many suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.