Labor MK Eitan Cabel called on Wednesday for the release of jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti.
“Although I have said this many times before, behind closed doors and during private conversations, it’s time for Israel to do this act,” Cabel said during a speech in the Knesset Plenum.
“I am not trying to clear this man of everything he’s done,” Cabel continued. “But let me use the well-known cliché: ‘Peace is made with enemies.’ [Barghouti], it seems, has, more than the others, the ability, power, and courage to push this long-awaited change.”
Releasing Barghouti would be wrong for at least two reasons.
First, he is a convicted murderer. As a leader of the Tanzim militia, he gave orders for numerous violent attacks on Israelis. He was charged with 21 murders in a civilian court, and convicted of 5 (four Israelis and one Greek monk) plus one count of attempted murder for ordering a suicide car bomb attack that failed. Although his supporters claim that he is a political prisoner, people murdered for political motives are still dead.
Second, and unsurprisingly, considering his activities, he is not a peace partner. He is the author of the “prisoners’ document” which is considered a charter for a re-invigorated Palestinian movement. Here is what I wrote in January about the prisoners’ document:
This so-called “prisoners’ document” like everything else is not what the press would suggest. It calls for a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem (this has now become standard); the joining together of Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad into a unified PLO which will lead the Palestinians — the latter two don’t even pretend to accept a Jewish Israel of any size in the Mideast; the return of refugees and release of prisoners “on the land of the fathers and grandfathers” — Israel proper; and “the right of the Palestinian people in resistance and clinging to the option of resistance with the various means”. There is a suggestion of limitations on violence — but just between Palestinian factions!
It makes no mention of recognition of Israel. Indeed, the word ‘Israel’ does not appear in any of its 18 points.
From time to time the idea of allowing the ineffectual Mahmoud Abbas to be replaced by Barghouti is floated, probably by the US State Department, which is frantically trying to find a Palestinian strongman with whom they can deal. But a Palestinian Authority led by Barghouti would be worse for Israel than Hamas or Fatah, because he combines the violent hostility of Hamas with the veneer of international respectability possessed by Abbas.
Let me add that it’s time to put the oft-quoted remark about making peace with enemies in perspective. There are two ways to make peace with an enemy: he can become a friend, or at least a neutral; or you can defeat him.
The Oslo process was an attempt to do the former, and it failed. Unilateral withdrawal was an attempt to do the former, and it failed. There is no available Palestinian partner today, especially Marwan Barghouti, to make friends with. Peace will have to wait for the appearance of such a partner, or for another war in which the Palestinians will be defeated.
Which it will be is really up to the Palestinians.