Ramallah, West Bank — He is the Palestinians’ most famous prisoner and most popular politician. Now Marwan Barghouti is speaking to the American public, through the voice of his wife.
Every 15 days, Fadwa Barghouti is allowed to visit her husband in an Israeli prison, where he has served 10 years of five consecutive life sentences for helping to arrange and fund terrorist attacks that killed five Israelis. Marwan Barghouti insisted that his trial was politicized and unfair, and even some Israelis have spoken out for his release.
Now, as Palestinians grapple with an uncertain statehood bid, a damaged peace process, and a possible unity government between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, Barghouti has again surfaced as a great political hope, a characterization his wife is all too eager to represent.
“The reason I’m talking now is that I never for once thought that Marwan has gone into jail and lost his contact with the people, among whom he’s very admired and respected,” his wife of 27 years said from his office in one of Ramallah’s new office buildings. “He is not a normal, usual prisoner, and the people will not allow his imprisonment to continue forever.”
Marwan Barghouti certainly isn’t letting his public forget him. On Jan. 3, on the 47th anniversary of the founding of Fatah, he issued a statement from jail contending that the current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were going nowhere and that all efforts should be directed toward achieving statehood through other venues. He’s long been a proponent of a two-state solution, but this statement could be seen as a serious prod to the current Palestinian Authority leadership, which resumed talks with the Israelis in Jordan.
“He said this because over the last 18 years, the only things negotiations have brought are more settlements and more occupations,” Fadwa Barghouti said through a translator. “He has been insistent in talking about, even on the day he was judged in court, he always talked about the two-state solution as the ultimate solution. His lack of faith in the current negotiations and their chance of success does not mean his lack of faith in the two-state solution.”
Like so many other Palestinians in Ramallah these days, Fadwa Barghouti said that her husband’s first priority is the establishment of a unity government between Fatah and Hamas. “The unity agreement is what matters,” she said. This will undoubtedly disturb the U.S., Israel, and their allies. But Marwan Barghouti — even from prison — may be only stating the inevitable.