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November 26, 2004
Jailed Palestinian Takes A Pass

Marwan Barghouti, currently serving multiple life terms in Israel for his role in planning and execution of several civilian bombings, has withdrawn his name from consideration in the upcoming election to replace Yasser Arafat. His Fatah faction of the PLO reportedly pressured him to endorse Mahmoud Abbas instead:

Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi has decided not to run in Palestinian presidential elections, an official said on Friday, following pressure from the ruling Fatah faction to support Mahmoud Abbas.

Cabinet minister and group member Qaddoura Fares, who visited him earlier in prison, said Barghouti had called to endorse Abbas, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to succeed Yasser Arafat for president in a Jan 9. ballot.

"In order to maintain the unity of the movement..(Barghouti) is calling upon the sons of the movement and his supporters to support the movement's nominee Mahmoud Abbas," Qaddoura told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

This move surprises me. A Barghouti candidacy would have put tremendous pressure on Israel to release him, especially from the appeasement-minded Europeans who would have lectured Ariel Sharon on the necessity of making peace with one's enemies and not their friends. Either Israel would have rightfully stood its ground and blamed for any election breakdowns that ensued, or it would have caved and demonstrated that Israel was susceptible to weakening its own defenses due to Western pressure.

Apparently the Palestinians have belatedly recognized that circumstances have changed since 9/11, and especially since George Bush's re-election. The focus on Abbas seems like a positive sign that the Palestinians may have finally decided on negotiations instead of terrorism to gain their own state. Perhaps they see that they can ill afford another four years like the past four, and that with Bush in power, bombings only push them farther backwards.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 26, 2004 1:01 PM

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