MK Amir Peretz (Labor) revealed on Friday that he has been regularly visiting
senior Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti in prison.
The two have met
several times since Peretz resigned from his role as defense minister in
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In their most recent conversations, Peretz said he and Barghouti
discussed the peace process.
“We think that [Prime Minister Binyamin]
Netanyahu has missed an opportunity that may not reappear,” Peretz told The
“The Palestinian leadership is prepared to make
Peretz, a front-runner in the current race for Labor Party
leadership, sees Barghouti as an important Palestinian ally due to his
popularity in the West Bank and Gaza.
Barghouti, who is thought to be the
mastermind behind the second intifada, has been in prison since 2002, and is
often mentioned in possible prisoner-exchange deals between Palestinians and
Israel. He is seen as a possible successor for Palestinian Authority President
“Netanyahu says there’s ‘no partner’ – that’s just an
avoidance tactic. Here is a partner,” Peretz said, in reference to
“Since the Palestinians agree to territorial swaps, there is
no reason that we can’t agree to begin negotiations based on 1967 borders,”
Peretz added. “We’re going to decide which territory to swap, so why not talk?”
“Now, the power is in our hands,” the Labor MK said, adding that he and
Barghouti think that “in a few more months, Netanyahu will miss the situation
he’s in now.”
Peretz pointed out that the regimes to come out of the Arab
Spring may end up being less friendly to Israel.
“When the new regimes
stabilize, they will be more extreme. Israel can be a calming factor, or a
provocation,” he cautioned.
Peretz also warned that with the expected
Palestinian declaration of statehood in the UN in September, “Israel’s status is
going to be much weaker.”
“The fact is, people are talking about Israel’s
legitimacy and the occupation. The discussion itself is an accomplishment for
the Palestinians,” he said. “An earthquake is coming.”
recently recruited 23,232 new Labor members – more than any other candidate –
said he does not think the visits will affect him politically.
always been in contact with Palestinian leaders,” he said. “I think it’s very
important, and a key to finding a solution to conflicts in the Middle
“This has been part of my worldview for years,” Peretz added,
saying that he called for a Palestinian state and negotiations with the PLO in
the 1980s, when such talks were illegal.
“An independent Palestinian
state is in Israel’s best interest,” he added.
Peretz also said that, in
his opinion, Israeli-Arabs could be “a bridge between the Palestinians and
Israel,” and help in the peace process.