Belgian lawmakers nominate jailed Palestinian Barghouti for Nobel
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Belgian lawmakers nominate jailed Palestinian Barghouti for Nobel

Members of Belgium's Senate and House say terrorist serving 5 life sentences for murder holds key to peace in the region

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

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)

Belgium lawmakers from across the political spectrum nominated jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti for the Nobel Peace Prize, Palestinian media reported on Wednesday.

Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail for his role in murderous terror attacks during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.

Palestinian activists have been campaigning for his nomination for a Nobel since April.

Lawmakers from both the Belgian Senate and House of Representatives penned a letter to the Nobel nominating committee praising Barghouti as a peace activist and key to future talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“He is an important actor for the future of a region more fragmented than ever,” the letter reads, according to the Palestine News Network. “Peace requires the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and of the political prisoners, and more generally the freedom of the Palestinian people living for decades under occupation.”

Palestinian Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is escorted by Israeli police into Jerusalem's Magistrate Court to testify as part of a US civil lawsuit against the Palestinian leadership, in January 2012. Barghouti was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002 for organizing murderous anti-Israeli attacks during the second intifada (photo credit: Flash90)
Palestinian Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti is escorted by Israeli police into Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court to testify as part of a US civil lawsuit against the Palestinian leadership, in January 2012. (Flash90)

 

The letter also claims granting Barghouti the prestigious prize would help bring about the elusive two-state solution and “resurrect the indispensable hope to get out of the current impasse.”

Palestinian rights groups, lawmakers and officials started a global campaign to nominate Barghouti for the peace prize in April.

The Belgians have become the first Europeans to nominate Barghouti for the prize. According to PNN, the Arab Parliament and former Nobel Peace Prize winner Argentine Adolfo Perez Esquivel have also backed the Israeli prisoner.

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 was convicted in 2004 on five counts of murder and one attempted murder, and was implicated in and held responsible for four other terror attacks.

Barghouti has remained politically active from behind bars, and is often touted as one of a few likely successors to the 82-year-old Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

A recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that if Palestinian presidential elections were to take place, Barghouti would top both Abbas and the Hamas candidate, Ismail Haniyeh.

Barghouti is seen as a unifying symbol in the divisive world of Palestinian politics, which is split between Hamas, Fatah and several smaller factions.

He is also favored by some in Israel’s left as a possible successor to Abbas for his support of a two-state solution and his supposed renouncement of violence. He is also viewed as a legitimate political player with enough credibility in the Palestinian street to see a peace deal through.

Were Barghouti to win the prize, he would become the second Palestinian leader thought to be responsible by the Israeli government for terrorism to become a Nobel Peace Laureate.

The late Yasser Arafat, the former head of the Palestinian Authority who died in 2004, won the prize alongside former Israeli prime ministers Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin for their joint efforts in the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.

Arafat is seen by many in Israel as an unreformed terrorist who doomed the 2000 Camp David peace talks and orchestrated the suicide bombing onslaught of the Second Intifada that followed.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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