Opposition divided over Barghouti

Livni: Election to Fatah government doesn't justify freeing him; Ezra: Israel shouldn't be inflexible.

Marwan Barghouti 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Marwan Barghouti 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expressed his unequivocal support, as opposition leader in the last government, for a Kadima-brokered deal to release kidnapped soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit, the current opposition came out divided Wednesday on the prospect of a similar deal brokered by Netanyahu. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni came out strongly against the release of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, whose election this week to the Palestinian faction's powerful Central Committee has spurned growing calls within Israel for his freedom. "Marwan Barghouti was put on trial in an Israeli court and was sentenced to many years in prison," she said Wednesday during an interview with Army Radio. "He murdered and was convicted of murder. The fact that the Palestinian public chose him to lead Fatah, or that some of us think he might be a better partner than others, does not justify, in my eyes, his release from jail given the crimes he committed." Kadima MK and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Avi Dichter echoed Livni's words, arguing that "Barghouti is a murderer who bought his position as third in Fatah's Central Committee at the expense of five murdered people." "I hope there is never a government of Israel that is lured into releasing this man in the hopes of leading to a true peace process. This man proved his willingness to switch from terror to peace and back again to terror," Dichter added. Earlier Wednesday, he hinted during an interview on the Knesset Channel that as head of the Shin Bet, he had known of a plan to launch a targeted assassination against the jailed Tanzim head, but that it had been called off due to technical complications. But fellow Kadima MK and former deputy Shin Bet head Gideon Ezra disagreed with the two more senior party members, telling the NRG Web site that should the Palestinians demand Barghouti's release as part of a prisoner swap for Schalit, "Israel should not be inflexible and [should] oblige the Palestinians in Barghouti's case." On Monday, a number of MKs and ministers expressed their support for the release. "Barghouti can probably deliver the goods and strengthen the moderate current that supports a diplomatic solution and an accord with Israel," Minority Affairs Minister Avishay Braverman (Labor) said. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor), who has said in the past that Barghouti should be freed, reportedly reiterated this stance on Tuesday, saying in a closed conversation that the Fatah leader "is the only one" who can bring the Palestinians to a final-status peace deal with Israel.