The New York Times reported in Palestinians Raise Hope of Cease-Fire Deal With Militants that:
There were many reports today of what would be a major concession from Israel: the possible release of the most prominent Palestinian prisoner, Marwan Barghouti.
Mr. Barghouti, head of Yasir Arafat’s Fatah movement in the West Bank, who is often considered a possible successor to Mr. Arafat as Palestinian president, went on trial in Israel in September on charges of murder and of belonging to a terrorist organization. Israeli officials declined to comment on the reports of his impending release.
But the possibility seemed real enough for Israel’s attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, to send a scathing letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is already under pressure from his right-wing supporters who oppose the peace plan.
“The person in question is an architect of terror,’ Mr. Rubinstein wrote. ‘It is unthinkable to integrate Barghouti into any deal with the Palestinians. The voice of our brothers’ blood prohibits such a thing. Experience shows that men of terror such as Barghouti do not return to an honest path. How will we be able to face the families of the victims?”
Does exerience really “show that men of terror…do not return to an honest path.” Ridiculous. Obviously, Rubinstein has forgotten the history of national struggles throughout the 20th century including his own nation’s history:
1. Yitzhak Shamir, a prime minister I detested, coordinated the assassination of the UN’s primary Mideast negotiator, Count Bernadotte prior to 1948. Shamir must have “returned to an honest path” because he was elected Israel’s prime minister.
2. George Washington and the members of the Continental Congress knew that if their cause failed they would be at the ends of British ropes. Hence the famous phrase spoken by a signer of the Declaration of Independence: “If we do not hang together we shall hang alone.” Doubtless, George III described the Americans in terms that would be familiar to those used today to describe Palestinian militants (not that I’m defending their cause–far from it).
3. Indonesian nationalists fought the Dutch for independence as guerilla fighters; then became the governors of their own country.
4. Jomo Kenyatta led the Mau Mau revolt with a British price on his head. Later, he became his nation’s first leader and father of his country.
There is no reason that Marwan Barghouti might not turn out to be the same type of figure for the Palestinian people.
Rubinstein is engaged in the same old right wing Palestinian bashing that has always gone a long way in Israel’s insular political system. The rule has always been: “bash a Palestinian, make a few brownie points with the right wing Israeli electorate.” But now, such rules should be suspended because there is a real chance for peace. To continue playing the Palestinian card and attempt to narrow Sharon’s manuvering room in the upcoming peace negotiations is unconscionable. I hope that Israel’s political leaders will steer clear of the grandstanding typified by Attorney General Rubinstein.