From Israeli jail, ‘nonviolent’ bid to ‘free Palestine’ takes shape
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From Israeli jail, ‘nonviolent’ bid to ‘free Palestine’ takes shape

Aiming to succeed Abbas, convicted murderer and Nobel-hopeful Marwan Barghouti said to coordinate campaign with Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

A Palestinian child stands in front of a mural of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti at the Kalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem. (Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)
A Palestinian child stands in front of a mural of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti at the Kalandia checkpoint between the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem. (Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)

A group of people close to leading Fatah activist Marwan Barghouti, jailed in Israel for murder, have reached an understanding with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaderships overseas on a comprehensive plan to jointly campaign against the Israeli occupation until it is brought to an end, Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel.

The plan includes unprecedented steps within the framework of what is dubbed “nonviolent resistance” which, the sources predicted, could prove immensely problematic for Israel. The goal is to force Israel out of all areas beyond the pre-1967 lines via a nonviolent intifada coordinated by a unified Palestinian leadership under Barghouti, who has been jailed by Israel since 2002 after being sentenced to five life sentences for involvement in murder.

The contacts were managed secretly in meetings that took place over recent months by four senior Fatah officials: Barghouti, Qadura Fares, Sarhan Davikat, and Mohammed Horani. All of them were considered senior members of the Palestinian Tanzim organization during the 90s and the latter three are known to be personal friends of Barghouti. Bargouti also intends to run for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority in the next elections, and even has Hamas support for the move, the sources said.

The four met with all of the Hamas leadership, including Khaled Mashaal, head of Hamas’s political wing, who is based in Doha, Qatar. Afterwards, they continued with meetings in Istanbul with the participation of Hamas leaders Moussa Abu Marzouk, Salah al-Aruri – considered to be behind many terror attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank and in Israel – Osama Hamdan, Husam Badran and others.

File: Marwan Barghouti appears in a Jerusalem court, January 25, 2012. (Flash90)
Marwan Barghouti appears in a Jerusalem court, January 25, 2012. (Flash90)

During the meetings, the sides reached agreement on a comprehensive plan under the title “The People’s Peaceful Revolution,” the sources said.

File: From left: Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian Fatah delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmed, Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas deputy leader Musa Abu Marzuk, and secretary-general of the Palestinian Arab Front Jameel Shehadeh, pose for a picture in Gaza on April 23, 2014 after announcing a unity deal. (photo credit:AFP/SAID KHATIB)
File: From left: Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian Fatah delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmed, Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas deputy leader Musa Abu Marzuk, and secretary-general of the Palestinian Arab Front Jameel Shehadeh, pose for a picture in Gaza on April 23, 2014 after announcing a unity deal. (photo credit:AFP/SAID KHATIB)

The declared goal of the plan is to end the occupation beyond the 1967 lines and to establish a Palestinian state there, and to implement all international decisions relating to the Palestinians, including UN Security Council Resolution 194 on the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” and the release of all Palestinian prisoners.

The plan itself holds that the path of negotiation with Israel is not possible in the presence of what it dubs an “extreme right” government, and therefore calls for a change of direction. It also depends on reconciliation between all Palestinian factions.

The plan does not aim for immediate implementation during the term of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. It can be understood from the actions they have taken that those involved do not expect Abbas to lead the campaign, but that it is intended for the next stage, after Abbas’s rule comes to an end.

Before the sections of the plan are implemented, the authors maintain that the Palestinian side needs to make some dramatic moves that will significantly change its relationship with the Israelis.

Among the ideas, the sources said, are ending the Oslo Accords and everything connected to them, canceling PLO recognition of Israel until Israel recognizes a Palestinian state, a willingness to negotiate with Israel but in a new framework laid down at an international summit without the “People’s Revolution” having to stop, and ending security cooperation with Israel.

The steps of the plan, as agreed between the representatives of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah, are no less dramatic and are expected to confound the Israeli security forces and government if they are implemented. That is because they relate not to “armed resistance,” the sources said, but to actions that are considered nonviolent.

The measures were formulated on the basis of a fundamental understanding of the need to bring about Palestinian sovereignty “in the occupied territories and foremost in Jerusalem,” to disrupt the daily life of the settlements, and to deny the Israeli government the ability to demonstrate sovereignty in the occupied territories, the sources said.

Among other things, the participants in the talks agreed on having Palestinian civilians block all access roads to settlements, via an influx of Palestinians onto the main roads; damage to the infrastructure of the settlements, such as electricity, telephone and internet; and organized mass protests across Jerusalem (“led by the Palestinian president”).

Other steps laid out for the campaign are aimed at damaging Israel’s image in the world and its ability to continue ruling over the West Bank and even East Jerusalem.

File: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, October 28, 2015 (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)
File: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, October 28, 2015 (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)

In contrast to earlier agreements reached between Barghouti and Hamas representatives, there is no talk this time of “general elections” or “reconciliation” alone, but of a comprehensive plan to end the occupation that emphasizes the importance of nonviolent steps.

Above all, it looks like Barghouti’s people, who are preparing the ground for his election to the Palestinian presidency, are making a strategic well-planned planned move to strengthen his status and severely embarrass Israel. The aim is to orchestrate a “supervised” and coordinated intifada operating in line with instructions from a united Palestinian leadership, which will decide at each juncture on the steps to be taken against Israel.

While such a “vision” could sound improbable in light of the deep divisions in Palestinian politics, it could take shape if Hamas and Islamic Jihad support Marwan Barghouti’s leadership, the sources said.

Associates of Barghouti and his family are due on Tuesday to launch an international campaign to field Barghouti as a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize. Despite his murder convictions, parts of the Palestinian public and the international community are taking this initiative seriously, the sources said.

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