Big news this morning: according to Ha’aretz, Abbas will ask the Israelis to release Marwan Barghouti from jail to help Fatah struggle against Hamas. If so, that would be a rather daring but smart move by the Imperial High Command: Marwan Barghouti is a ‘next generation’ secular Palestinian leader with far more credibility that imperial stooges like Abbas. Immensely popular among Palestinians, well-spoken and articulate with the press, Barghouti has impeccable anti-Imperial credentials. There is little doubt in my mind that if the Israelis were to release him he would be far more effective at handling the Hamas issue than Abbas and his minions.

According to the Ma’an news agency, Barghouti has just released the following statement from his jail cell:

From my dark, small prison cell, I address the great Palestinian people to do the following:

1. Condemn the military coup against the legitimate Palestinian Authority and its institutions in the Gaza Strip.
2. Consider the military coup by Hamas in Gaza a dangerous threat to the Palestinian unity and cause, a shift in the choice of resistance and the destruction of the principles of partnership.
3. Consider the coup a threat to the democratic process and democratic choice, which led Hamas to win the legislative elections.
4. Fully support the decision to compose a new Palestinian government under Salam Fayyad, hoping it will restore the sovereignty of law and end the state of chaos in order to protect the Palestinian unity.
5. Censure any attacks against people or institutions of the Hamas movement in the West Bank, and absolutely refuse the extension of chaos into the West Bank.
6. Call on President Abbas, as the general commander of the Fatah movement, to appoint a new leadership of Fatah in the Gaza Strip.
7. Dismiss all the leaders of the security services and appoint new leaders capable of reforming and developing the security institutions, relying on professionalism. This will render the security services more efficient in attempts to defend the Palestinian homeland and citizens.

Notice that he demands a complete purge of the gang of thugs usually referred to as “Fatah security services”? That will no doubt prove a very popular move among the Palestinian population who, unlike the corporate press, has no illusions about the corrupt nature of these “security services”. This move will also secure Barghouti’s power should he come out of jail. And in this lies the main question: will the Israelis release him?

The Israelis have accused Barghouti of being responsible for the attacks of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and of having “Jewish blood on his hands” which, in the self-declared ethno-religious “Jewish state” is, of course, the ultimate crime for which no Israeli politician can ever offer a pardon (non-Jewish blood has such a lesser value in their eyes that some Israelis seriously discuss whether it is permissible for a Jew to receive a blood transfusion from a Goy and, if yes, under what circumstances). To release him would thus be painful, but I bet you that the rabbis could, if needed, justify this by saying that such a huge concession would be permissible if that was done to free Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (Jewish life being even more precious that Jewish blood).

In itself, such an exchange would have fascinating ramifications as it would require the collaboration of Hamas (in the case of Shalit) and Hezbollah (in the case of Goldwasser and Regev). Again – my bet is that Hamas and Hezbollah would go along with such an exchange, if only to further boost their popularity and because dealing with Barghouthi would be far preferable than dealing with Abbas.

My concern is that the crazies in the Imperial High Command will not agree to this idea. For them freeing Barghouthi would be too much of a price to pay politically and would entail too many risks in the long term. In the latter they would probably be correct as Barghouthi is unlikely to prove an obedient puppet like Abbas.

So the question the Israelis need to ask themselves is this: do they want a real negotiating partner or not? Do they want to secure the release of their three soliders? Do they finally want to stop pretend negotiating with Imperial puppets and get something done with the real representatives of the Palestinian people? Do they want to deal with the last credible secular Arab leader left or would they rather have to deal with the Islamists?

I sure hope they do, but I am afraid they won’t.

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