Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday lashed out at the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah, for electing a jailed terrorist to a senior role within the movement.
A Palestinian popular leader jailed for life by Israel for orchestrating a string of murders during the Second Intifada, Marwan Barghouti emerged victorious in Fatah’s Central Committee leadership vote, held in the West Bank and Gaza last week.
“This is the leader of a terrorist organization who encouraged and led terror attacks that killed and wounded dozens of innocent Israelis,” Netanyahu said in a statement Monday. “The election of Barghouti in the Fatah movement radicalizes the culture of incitement and terrorism.”
Netanyahu, who has long accused Palestinian leadership of inciting and glorifying violence against Israel, further said Barghouti’s election amplified “the culture of hate and only serves to alienate prospects of peace.”
“As if it weren’t enough that they continue to incite by naming streets, schools and squares after murderers, now they’re in top leadership roles,” he said.
Over the weekend, Fatah held its first congress in seven years. Delegates voted on key leadership roles within the party, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sought to quell dissent in the face of internal rivalries.
Unofficial results indicated the top vote-getter was Barghouti, who ran for Fatah’s top decision-making Central Committee despite being incarcerated in an Israeli prison.
Barghouti has remained politically active from behind bars, and is often touted as one of a few likely successors to the 82-year-old Abbas.
A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research earlier this year found that if Palestinian presidential elections were to take place, Barghouti would top both Abbas and the Hamas candidate, Ismail Haniyeh.
The jailed leader is seen as a unifying symbol in the divisive world of Palestinian politics, which is split between Hamas, Fatah and several smaller factions.
Barghouti is the former leader of the Tanzim armed wing of Fatah and was convicted by Israel of being the founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, another Fatah terror group.
He is currently serving five life sentences at the Hasharon Prison after being convicted in 2004 on five counts of murder and one attempted murder, and was implicated in and determined responsible for four other terror attacks.