Barghouti in court in 2002
Barghouti in court in 2002Israel News Photo: GPO

The Cabinet went on silent mode Sunday, issuing no statement in its post-meeting communiqué regarding reports of a deal for freeing kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and the Egyptian proposal for a truce with Hamas.

Prior to the meeting, a handful of Shas and Kadima ministers made a point of publicizing their views that the government must “pay the price” and swap high-level terrorists for the return of the soldier, kidnapped by Hamas nearly 1,000 days ago.

On Saturday night, however, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took a harder line, insisting that the Gaza crossings would not reopen until the Hamas terrorist organization returned the abducted soldier.

Both Olmert and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter have been careful in their statements to the media to avoid saying whether they are now willing to trade the top four terrorists demanded by Hamas in exchange for the young Israeli soldier.

In the past, Israel has refused to include these specific terrorists due to the enormity of their crimes.

In addition, number one on the list demanded by Hamas is Tanzim terror leader Marwan Barghouti.

Who is Marwan Barghouti?

Marwan Bin Khatib Barghouti, 49, became a political icon on the Palestinian Authority street during the first and second intifadas.

The leader of the al-Mustaqbal faction which split from Fatah, Barghouti enjoys wide popularity among PA Arabs.

From his jail cell in an Israeli prison, he ran in the 2004 PA presidential elections after the death of Yasser Arafat, having been registered as an independent candidate by his wife. At the last minute, however, he was persuaded by Fatah officials to abandon his campaign and support Mahmoud Abbas in the interests of unity.

He has remained in prison, serving five life terms for his conviction on five counts of murder, as well as a sentence of 40 years’ imprisonment for attempted murder.

Lifelong History of Terror

Born in Ramallah, he began his career as a terrorist while still in his teens, joining Fatah at the age of 15 and by the time he was 18 years old, he had already been arrested by Israel for involvement in terrorist activities.

Eleven years later, in 1987, he became one of the top leaders of the first intifada, resulting in another arrest by Israel and deportation to Jordan.

Despite his almost life-long history of terrorism, Barghouti was allowed to return to Israel seven years later, in 1994, as a result of the Oslo Accords. Within two years, he was elected as a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), also serving as secretary-general of Fatah in Judea and Samaria.

At the advent of the second intifada, Barghouti became head of the Tanzim, the armed branch of Fatah that often clashed with the IDF. He was placed on Israel’s “most wanted “list in 2001 and was finally arrested in 2002.

He was convicted in a civil court on five counts of murder, on May 20, 2004, although he managed to be acquitted on 21 counts of murder that stemmed from 33 other attacks.

Among along list of attacks he orchestrated are:

The June, 2001 murder of a Greek Orthodox monk on the road to Ma'aleh Adumim;

A January 2002 shooting attack during a bat mitzva celebration at a banquet hall in Hadera, where six Israelis were killed and 26 were injured;

A shooting spree in the same month on Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, killing two Israelis and wounding 37;

The February 2002 shooting attack in the Jerusalem residential neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, murdering a policewoman;

The March 2002 shooting spree at the Tel Aviv Seafood restaurant, in which three Israelis were killed and 31 others wounded.

Later that month, Israeli security and military personnel intercepted an ambulance confiscated an explosive belt which was being smuggled from Samaria into Barghouti's terrorist infrastructure in Ramallah.

In an interview with the Arabic language Al Hayat newspaper in 2001, he boasted that he was responsible for launching the second intifada, also known as the Oslo War, in which terrorists have murdered more than 1,000 Israelis and bombed and shelled Israel with more than 10,000 rockets and mortar.

Barghouti was sentenced on June 6, 2004 to five sentences of life in prison for the five counts of murder , in addition to 40 years’ imprisonment for attempted murder.

PA Politician from Prison

Barghouti earned a name for himself among the “common man” as a warrior against corruption in the PA government, specifically in the Fatah faction and in the administration of Yasser Arafat.  He spoke out often against human rights violations perpetrated by Arafat’s security force.

Unlike many other terrorist leaders, Barghouti also made a point in his public speeches of clarifying that he opposed terror attacks on civilians “inside Israel, our future neighbor.” However, he said, he reserved the right to “resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom.” He did not defend himself in court, insisting the entire proceeding was illegal.

Barghouti has continued to be active in PA politics, albeit from an Israeli jail cell. He formed a new political party in December 2005 (al-Mustaqbal, “The Future”), comprised of Fatah members who were dissatisfied with the “old guard” corruption. Among the members were rising young "stars" such as Mohammed Dahlan, Kadoura Fares and Jibril Rajoub.

However, when it became apparent that his legislative seat would be jeopardized, he reversed his position and instead ran as a Fatah candidate in the January 2006, easily retaining his seat as a lawmaker.

Barghouti was also involved in putting together a unity document designed to bring together the diverse factions of the PA terror groups, called the National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners.

The document was signed by convicted terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) terrorist organizations. Initiated by Barghouti, the document was intended to form the basis for a PA unity government to be established in the PLC.

The controversial piece of text in the document was the sentence implicitly recognizing Israel by calling for negotiations with the State of Israel in order to achieve lasting peace.