PA demands Marwan Barghouti be excluded from prisoner release deal: Report

The Cradle, May 6, 2024 ─ 

Barghouti, who faces a life sentence in Israeli prison, is widely popular among Palestinians.

Senior officials in the Palestinian Authority (PA) have requested from mediators involved in Gaza truce efforts that imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti be excluded from any potential prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Palestinian resistance, according to Middle East Eye (MEE). 

“The request was made by Majid Faraj, the director of Palestinian general intelligence, and Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) executive committee,” a source told MEE on 5 May, adding that senior PA leaders believe “Barghouti’s release would threaten the leadership of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.”

The US, which is involved in mediation efforts, has agreed to exclude Barghouti from any list of prisoners provided by Hamas, the report adds. 

The source said that Hamas would most likely insist on Barghouti’s release, as the group has previously said. However, the talks have not reached the stage of exchanging lists of prisoner names, the source added. 

Sources told the London-based Arab21 outlet in March that both the US and Israel are opposed to Barghouti’s release and that there has been significant Israeli pressure on Washington in this regard.

According to observers cited by the outlet, PA President Mahmoud Abbas fears “severe polarization” within the Fatah movement if Barghouti is released – given his popularity among Palestinians. 

A poll released on 20 March – carried out by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) – states that in the case of a hypothetical election, Barghouti would win the majority of support by Palestinians.

“In presidential elections against current president Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh, Barghouti wins the majority of those participating in the elections. In a two-way competition between Barghouti and Haniyeh, the former wins by more than 60 percent of the participating voters. These findings indicate an 11-point rise in the vote for Barghouti among voters and an 8-point drop in the vote for Haniyeh,” the poll reads.

Barghouti is currently serving a life sentence in Israel’s Megiddo prison. He has been imprisoned since 2002, the second year of the Second Intifada, on charges of involvement in the murder of Israelis. The jailed Fatah leader was a supporter of the group’s armed resistance against Israel.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ and Ex-Detainees Authority, Barghouti faces serious threats to his life in Israeli prison. 

Truce talks have faltered in the last few days, with Israel insisting on going ahead with its planned assault on Gaza’s southern city of Rafah and Hamas reiterating that it will not accept anything less than a permanent ceasefire, end to the war and withdrawal of troops from Gaza. 

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