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December 7, 2004
Barghouthi Runs The Mario Cuomo Playbook

First he's in, then he's out. Then he's in after his wife drafts him, but now he's got second thoughts. Mario Cuomo? John Kerry? No, we're talking about Marwan Barghouthi, the living martyr of the Palestinians, who currently resides as a guest of Israel under tight security -- having been convicted of multiple counts of murder from his career running the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Barghouti, it seems, has had second third fourth thoughts about running for the Palestinian Authority presidency:

Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouthi is considering pulling out of a presidential race to avoid splitting his mainstream Fatah faction, an Israeli-Arab lawmaker said after visiting him in jail. ...

He said that Barghouthi told him that he planned to hold discussions on a number of unspecified issues with [Mahmoud] Abbas and other Palestinian Authority leaders and then he would "make his decision whether he will take part in the election or not." Asked if Barghouthi would run, El-Sana said: "As far as (running for) head of the Palestinian Authority, he is considering the matter. A decision has not yet been taken."

"I believe in the end ... he will act responsibly and take a decision that serves the unity of the Palestinian people," El-Sana told Reuters outside the prison.

The Barghouthi cha-cha derives from twin aspirations: to grasp legitimate power and to embarrass the Israeli government into releasing him. I wrote earlier that Barghouthi's first demurral surprised me, as running for president from inside an Israeli jail would certainly boost visibility for his efforts to build international pressure against his continued incarceration. After all, when you're serving five consecutive life terms, a hobby helps pass the time a bit more quickly.

Under Yasser Arafat, the Palestinians would have lept to such a pointless and futile tactic. (Of course, under Arafat, there would have been no presidential elections -- at least no contested elections.) It's a measure of the seriousness on the Palestinians' behalf that they not only have failed to embrace such a self-defeating move but that they have actively attempted to squelch it. Unlike Arafat, the rest of the PLO power structure appears ready to dump intifada for something more constructive, and obviously Barghouthi doesn't fit those plans.

I predicted that an Abbas-Barghouthi race would provide the Palestinian people an opportunity to send a message about their readiness for peace and negotiation. Electing Barghouthi would demonstrate an absolute rejection of the bargaining table for more war, and like a canary in a coal mine, would warn the West that a Palestinian state would be nothing more than another, more secular Taliban promoting terrorism worldwide. It may or may not be encouraging to see the Palestinian autocracy try to take that choice away from the electorate.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 7, 2004 6:40 AM

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USA Today reports: Opinion polls published Monday showed that jailed Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti poses a threat to mainstream candidate Mahmoud Abbas in the Jan. 9 presidential election to replace Yasser Arafat. The polls are th... [Read More]

Tracked on December 7, 2004 12:49 PM

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