Barghouti: Shalit Deal is On Verge of Completion


barghoutiFatah strongman Marwan Barghouti has said that Hamas and Israel are on the verge of reaching a deal for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, in an interview with the pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi published today.

As part of a prisoner exchange for Shalit, the Islamist militant group is reportedly demanding that Israel release Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison for his role in terror attacks.

While it is still unclear whether Israel has agreed to free him in the deal, Barghouti told the London-based paper that he hopes to be released soon. He was quoted as saying his release would be a “national interest of the entire Palestinian nation.”

The Fatah strongman also reportedly voiced the hope that the deal would be finalized as soon as possible, and that Israel would agree to all of Hamas’ demands. He added that the Palestinian prisoners in Israel were prepared to wait until Israel freed all of them without reservations, the paper said.

Fatah officials say that Barghouti’s release could expedite the resignation of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, paving the way for Barghouti to assume the post.

Palestinian opinion polls show that Barghouti is extremely popular among the Palestinian public. Though Hamas is likely to gain popularity if it is able to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit, no single Hamas figure seems likely to defeat Barghouti in Palestinian elections.

In response to a question as to whether there were elements in Hamas that opposed his release, Barghouti was quoted as saying there were no differences of opinion in the militant group. He said Hamas saw the deal as a very important achievement and was working for its completion, the paper reported.

Barghouti said the release of Palestinian prisoners was an issue over which all of the Palestinian factions were united, according to Al-Quds al-Arabi.

{Haaretz/Yair Israel}