A top Palestinian official revealed on Saturday that he will support Marwan Barghouti in the next elections for president.
Saeb Erekat, the veteran peace negotiator who recently became secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told a German radio station on Saturday that he intends to back Barghouti, the longtime Fatah leader who is currently serving a life sentence in an Israeli prison for his role in the killing of civilians during the second intifada.
Erekat told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that he has no plans to run for the Palestinian Authority presidency, which is currently held by Mahmoud Abbas.
The PLO official said the Palestinians remain committed to a two-state solution, “which is the only option which stands before our people,” though he said that a lack of diplomatic progress towards that goal would compel the Ramallah administration to cease security coordination with Israel.
The issue of Abbas' succession has been widely discussed given the advanced age of the rais
Last September, Barghouti, who is believed to be the front-running candidate to replace Abbas as head of the Palestinian Authority, told Joint List MK Basel Ghattas that he believes the PA will soon have its first election for president in more than a decade.
Ghattas visited Barghouti in honor of the Id al-Adha holiday at Hadarim Prison (formerly Tel Mond Prison), where Barghouti is serving five life sentences plus 40 years for five murders and an attempted murder committed while he led Fatah’s Tanzim militia. Ghattas said Barghouti was healthy and closely followed the news.
“Based on what I heard from him multiple times, I think he will run,” Ghattas said. “He thinks that if the situation does not change, Abbas will reach conclusions [about leaving politics], and there will be democratic elections.”
Ghattas said Barghouti was familiar with the results of Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research’s poll last week, which found that if an election were held and Abbas did not run, 32 percent of respondents would prefer to see Barghouti replace him, nearly 20% prefer Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah of Fatah got 8%, and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and former Fatah operative Muhammad Dahlan each received 6%.
The two most moderate potential candidates fared the poorest in the poll. Only 4% said they favored Erekat, while former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad of the Third Way party got only 3%. The poll, which found a majority of Palestinians oppose the two-state solution, was conducted in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip from September 17 to 19, covered 1,270 adults and had a 3-percentage point margin of error.
Ghattas said Barghouti believes PA relations with Israel have hit a dead end.