barghouti from prison .
(photo credit: Channel 2 [file])
MK Taleb a-Sanaa didn't have to hold visits with Arab leaders in Damascus and Beirut to cause controversy, like other Arab MKs have done this summer. He only had to travel to Nafha Prison in the Negev in order to conduct his Wednesday meeting with Fatah-Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti. At the meeting, a-Sanaa said, he and Barghouti - who is serving five life sentences for his role in terrorist activity - discussed topics of local and global political importance, including the potential for a unity government in the Palestinian Authority, the practice of exchanging prisoners for captured IDF soldiers and the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The two met for 90 minutes in the head warden's office at the prison. A-Sanaa downplayed the significance of the meeting, saying it was the fourth such meeting he had with Barghouti and that he makes a habit of visiting prisoners, both criminal and security-related, as part of his Knesset duties "whenever the need arises."
Following the meeting, a-Sanaa told The Jerusalem Post that Barghouti was an important figure in any future deal involving an exchange of prisoners for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
"If Israel wants a significant release of prisoners, Barghouti needs to be at the top of the list. He embodies the hope of the Fatah and the future leadership of the Palestinian people," said a-Sanaa. Barghouti, he continued, remained a critical force in the Palestinian political arena.
"He was the force and strength behind the Prisoners' Agreement, which is the basis of an agreement for a unity government between Fatah and Hamas," said a-Sanaa. According to a-Sanaa, Barghouti saw such a unity government as necessary "to end the blockade of the Palestinian Authority, to stop Palestinian terror and to prevent a civil war in the PA."
A-Sanaa added that Barghouti closely followed political developments within Israel and the Middle East, and that following the war this summer, there was an opportunity for diplomatic steps. Barghouti, he said, was concerned that if the PA was not internally unified, they would remain outside the negotiation processes.
On the subject of the peace process, according to a-Sanaa, Barghouti reiterated previous statements that the breakdown of negotiations between the PA and Israel was due to Israeli unwillingness.
"Hamas has come a long way toward recognizing Israel," a-Sanaa said, adding that it was PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and not the Hamas government that had the mandate for international negotiation on behalf of Palestinians.
A-Sanaa said Barghouti also put the blame for the kidnapping of IDF soldiers solely in the hands of Israel.
"Israel is guilty in creating the direction for kidnapping soldiers because it wasn't willing to listen to Abbas's requests to release prisoners," a-Sanaa told the Post, emphasizing that Barghouti said the Palestinians were left with no other option for the release of the prisoners.
"The same is true with Samir Kuntar," a-Sanaa added. "If Israel had negotiated for his release, there wouldn't have been any war in Lebanon."