Jailed Palestinian leader to run for Arafat’s job
November 25, 2004
RAMALLAH, West Bank – Marwan Barghouti, a fiery Palestinian leader serving multiple life terms in an Israeli prison, indicated Thursday that he is running for Yasser Arafat’s position as head of the Palestinian Authority, defying the traditional leadership and scrambling the political picture ahead of the Jan. 9 election.
Barghouti, 45, is challenging interim leader Mahmoud Abbas, 69, a pragmatist who appears to have the tacit support of Israel and the United States.
Late Thursday, the Fatah Revolutionary Council formally endorsed Abbas. Palestinian official Tayeb Abdel Rahim said this was the final approval, making Abbas “the only candidate of the Fatah movement.”
Barghouti’s candidacy sharpens a power struggle in the ruling Fatah movement, pitting the old guard of politicians, like Abbas, who returned with Arafat from exile in 1994, against the younger generation of activists who led two uprisings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Arafat ruled Fatah for nearly 40 years until his death Nov. 11.
The uprising leader is serving five life terms for his role in attacks on Israelis. This week Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called him a “murderer.” Barghouti’s supporters have said they are counting on international pressure on Israel to free him.
Defying his own party, Barghouti indicated Thursday, through his lawyers, that he would run. He would have to stand as an independent, threatening a split in the Fatah vote that could even propel an outside candidate into the presidency.
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A Palestinian official said late Thursday that Cabinet Minister Kadoura Fares, a Fatah leader, would visit Barghouti in prison on Friday. Another Fatah official, Abdel Rahman Shomali, said he would distribute a statement by Barghouti later.
Meanwhile, Israel said it will remove all roadblocks in the West Bank on Jan. 9 in a move to allow a free election, according to security officials speaking on condition of anonymity. As alternative security measure, Israel will ban Palestinians from entering the country. Removal of the roadblocks is a key Palestinian demand.
Both Abbas and Barghouti support the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
The two differ on the uprising. Abbas has spoken out against violence and said the current uprising was a mistake, but Barghouti has justified attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza as legitimate resistance.
Barghouti was the West Bank leader of Fatah when he was captured in the city of Ramallah by Israeli forces in April 2002. He has been in Israeli custody ever since.
Before the current round of violence erupted in September 2000, Barghouti was known as a moderate, advocating creation of a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israe