Ben-Eliezer backs Barghouti's release

Minister says Tanzim leader understands Mideast conflict must be solved through dialogue.

Barghouti 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Barghouti 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer spoke out strongly in support of the release of Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti Sunday, saying the man who has "endured seven levels of hell" understands that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be solved through dialogue. "He is by no means a moderate," Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio. "But at least if an agreement is signed with him, he will stand by it." "I know him very well," continued the infrastructures minister. "And I am convinced and certain that he knows military options will not bring an answer to the conflict." Ben-Eliezer said that he believed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was incapable of striking a deal with Israel since he was too weak and his leadership had not withstood the test of reality. In contrast, he called Barghouti a strong leader. "He is a murderer, yes," he said. "But you do not sign agreements with educators and professors; you sign agreements with strong leaders." Nevertheless, Ben Eliezer stressed that any prisoner swap deal that includes Barghouti must secure the release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit. Ben-Eliezer went on to say that ultimately, Hamas wants to bring about the release of its prisoners and that even with the Islamic group, logic would eventually prevail. He said that in the end, Israel would be forced to live with the movement. The minister concluded by saying he wished to see an end to the cycle of violence. "After 60 years, I very much hope Israel can finally start to live in tranquility." Vice Premier Haim Ramon blasted Ben-Eliezer's proposal that Barghouti be freed in order to bring about results in the peace process, saying that belittling Israel's partners would be a mistake. "The Palestinian Authority has two leaders committed to negotiations and reaching a peace deal," he told Israel Radio, adding that "it would be a mistake to degrade them and undermine the positions of the only partners we have." Likud MK Silvan Shalom said that Barghouti's release would be a "serious loss of way" and would be seen as a betrayal against Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad. He also said such a move would transmit a message to terror organizations that even if they commit murder; their release would ultimately be secured.