Friday, December 30, 2005

Our Response to the Barghouti Mess Should Be... 

As you may know, two weeks ago convicted Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti was placed at the top of not one but two Palestinian legislative lists:

Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in Israel for his role in terror attacks, dropped an electoral bombshell late Wednesday night when he announced, through his wife, Fadwa, that he would contest the vote at the head of a new list called al-Mustaqbal (The Future).

Only minutes after Barghouti's list was presented on Wednesday night to the PA central elections commission in Ramallah, Abbas announced his own Fatah list. Surprisingly, Abbas's list is also headed by Barghouti.
There are some attempts to explain this strange occurence:

The list consists solely of representatives of the young guard in the ruling party and is seen as a response to attempts by veteran Fatah leaders to keep grassroots activists away from power.

Barghouti's decision is also seen by many Palestinians as an attempt to stage a bloodless coup against the representatives of the old guard, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other top Fatah officials.
While these make interesting subplots for those interested in the internals of Fatah bickering, they seem to ignore the elephant in the room: why is someone convicted and jailed for life being nominated to run for office? It's ridiculous isn't it?

Well not really. While it must be too obvious to bother mentioning explicitly -- but when has that ever stopped me -- the Palestinians must clearly expect that the international community, namely the US, will exert pressure on Israel to release the "democratically elected leader" of the Palestinians. Think about it for a second and then tell me you really doubt this.

But it's ok. Sure it's kind of a despicable thing to do, and I'm shocked I can even imagine it. Coercing an ally to release a convicted terrorist who's serving a life sentence for the murders he caused is nasty business. But hey, it's all politics and it doesn't pay to hide from it. Instead, we have to understand the game and then play it to win.

Here's my recommendation.

Before the upcoming Israeli elections -- now, in fact -- we the Israeli electorate need to let each and every party know that we will only vote for a party that has placed Jonathon Pollard's name in their Knesset list's first position. Obviously he doesn't have to become Prime Minister. But we need him to run for the position of "Imprisoned Democratically Elected Leader."

Nasty game, isn't it?
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