A senior Israeli cabinet minister and former Israeli minister of defense, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, has proposed that the jailed Fatah secretary Gen. Marwan Barghouti, be released from an Israeli prison in exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and said that Mr. Barghouti is expected to be the next leader of the Palestinians. In Mr. Ben Eliezer’s words, “We must break the cycle; the release of Marwan Barghouti could constitute a move that would both move the peace negotiations forward and lead to the release of Shalit.”
Mr. Barghouti, whom Mr. Ben Eliezer suggests should be released from prison so he can “lead the Palestinian people,” was convicted of murder of direct responsibility for the murders of Salim Barakat, 33; Eli Dahan, 53; Yosef Habi, 52; Fr. Georgios Tsibouktzakis, 34, a Greek Orthodox monk from St. George’s Monastery in Wadi Kelt near Jericho; and Yoela Chen, 45.
According to the court protocols, Mr. Barghouti proudly admitted that he directed terrorist attacks in which scores of Israelis were killed and revealed how he directly allocated funds needed by terrorist cells to operate and purchase necessary weapons. He stated that Yasser Arafat personally authorized this funding for Tanzim activities, knowing that this money would be used to finance murderous attacks. Furthermore, protocols of interrogations of Palestinian officials before the trial showed how the process worked: Names of Tanzim killers were submitted to Mr. Barghouti, who would routinely take them to Mr. Arafat for approval.
At Mr. Barghouti’s trial, people who were maimed as a result of Barghouti-sponsored attacks also appeared as witnesses to the pain that he caused them – pain they will experience for the rest of their lives.
Chicago-born Alan Bauer and his then seven-year-old son Jonathan were among those witnesses. They were walking on King George Street in downtown Jerusalem when a Barghouti-funded suicide bomber blew himself up three feet away from them on March 21, 2002. Two arteries in Mr. Bauer’s arm were severed. A screw went all the way through little Jonathan’s head. Today, as a result, Jonathan walks with a limp.
It was also Mr. Barghouti who, from 1995 until his imprisonment in 2002, hammered out cooperative agreements in Cairo between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and who continues to do so today from prison.
According to Israeli intelligence sources and in the indictment issued against him, it was Mr. Barghouti who, on the outbreak of an armed rebellion in October 2000, became the head of a joint coordinating body of all violent Palestinian organizations in the West Bank – including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, all three of which are listed by both the American and the Israeli government as terrorist groups.