Presidential Campaign Issue: Pardon For Barghouti

Ezra HaLevi - Jan. 25, 2007 - 6 Shevat 5767 - Arutz Sheva - Israel National News

Candidates vying for the still-occupied position of president are being asked whether the will approve a request to pardon terror chief Marwan Barghouti, serving life-sentences for murder.

MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud), considered a likely winner over Shimon Peres, has already been approached by several foreign diplomats on the matter. "A number of ambassadors from European countries - separately, and not in coordination with one another - asked to meet Likud MK Reuven Rivlin," reported analyst Yossi Verter in Haaretz. "All addressed an identical question to Rivlin: 'If you are chosen president, how will you act if you are asked to pardon the prisoner Marwan Barghouti, the leader of the Tanzim?'" Verter says that Rivlin told the ambassadors "what they had been hoping to hear. 'If the government and the justice minister make a diplomatic decision that this is the individual with whom they want to negotiate, I will not stand in their way. I will sign the pardon.' "

Shimon Peres has declared unequivocally that he would pardon Barghouti. He is lobbying hard to force a public vote after an embarrassing defeat in his race against Katzav, which was decided by secret ballot in the 120-seat Knesset.

"All the candidates are competing as to who will release Barghouti faster," Verter quoted an unnamed leftist MK saying.

The preoccupation with a prisoner serving time for dozens of counts of murder indicates that a deal has already been, or is close to being formulated. The plan would presumably entail the release of Barghouti in exchange for IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit or a promise of Hamas or Fatah moderation. Barghouti might then agree to make an Israeli withdrawal to the lines delineated by the Partition Wall bilateral.

MK Haim Oron (Meretz) has been in regular contact with Barghouti, holding meetings in his jail cell and shuttling back and forth to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office. Olmert's office staff admits that Olmert and his advisers hold regular meetings with Oron but insist that messages to or from Barghouti have never been conveyed.

The Mattot Arim Land of Israel activist group, led by Susie Dym, has begun working to pressure candidates to commit to keeping Barghouti behind bars. "We need to ask all MKs on the right to refuse to vote for Rivlin unless he gives a written commitment not to release Barghouti, convicted for taking part in the murder of at least five innocent people - and possibly many more," Dym wrote in a recent communiqu?.

She urged activists to fax and call the heads of the Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu parties, urging them to condition their presidential vote on whether a candidate will commit not to release Barghouti. "Shas Chairman Eli Yishai's office can be called at 02 666 2252 or faxed 02 666 2909; Yisrael Beiten'u can be reached at 02-6408388. For more information, email:

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