Marwan Barghouthi says unity deal needed before elections 28Oct09 October 29, 2009

Ma’an News Agency -  28 October 2009

Jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi said on Tuesday that elections cannot be held without a national unity agreement in place.

“Elections can’t be held before rivalry comes to an end,” said Barghouthi who is serving life sentence in an Israeli prison. The popular leader however blamed Hamas for the current impasse for their refusal to sign Egypt’s latest proposal for Palestinian unity.

Abbas decreed that elections be held in January, a step that Hamas said should be delayed until after a deal is signed.

According to the PA Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs Issa Qaraqe, Barghouthi told him during a visit to Israel’s Hadareim prison, “National unity, and protection of the Palestinian political system are our compass toward completing our national duties. This is far more important than all partisan and individual interests.”

He added, according to Qaraqe, “As Palestinians, and as prisoners, our top priority is ending Israeli occupation of our lands, and to reach our dream of liberty and independence. This necessitates ending the political and geographic division which resulted from the military coup Hamas staged in the Gaza Strip.”

Speaking about Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, Barghouthi said, “The rivalry has negatively affected prisoners because it gave the Israeli government a golden opportunity to inflict more oppressive measures against prisoners. Rivalry also helped the Israelis with their settlement activities.”

Barghouthi said the decree issued by President Abbas calling for elections on 24 January 2010, was constitutional and legal. “It was a democratic and multi-political procedure in which all the Palestinian people partake in building Palestinian political system,” he added.

As for the peace process with Israel he said, “There is no peace partner in Israel, and the Israeli government is not mature enough to establish a real and just peace with the Palestinian people. Unless Israel ends its occupation of the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967, enable the Palestinians to build their independent state, guarantee return of refugees, and release all Palestinian detainees, all talks about peace are pointless.”

Barghouthi applauded Palestinians in Jerusalem for their steadfastness in the face of Israeli “racist attacks against the capital of Palestine.” He called on the Arab and Islamic nations to support Jerusalem and stop “Israeli aggression” which targets the people, the history, and the religious nature of Jerusalem.

As for a hoped-for prisoner swap deal between Israel and the captors of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Barghouthi said he supported the captors’ demands of releasing a large number of detainees, especially long-term prisoners, prisoners from Jerusalem, prisoners from inside Israel, the ill, women, and bodies of killed-in-action “martyrs” that Israel holds.

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