To anyone with eyes open , the current political/security scenario truly is incomprehensible.
And here we have a superb example of goings-on that leave one with head spinning:
On Friday at a Hamas rally , Hamas leader in Damascus, said that Shalit would not be released if Marwan Barghouti — who is serving five life sentences for planning and directing terror attacks against Jews — and other Palestinian leaders were not released.
So, the first question to be asked is why would Hamas promote Barghouti, who is Fatah all the way down the line? He has served as secretary-general of Fatah; helped found a Fatah youth organization called Shabiba; was a commander of Tanzim, a Fatah paramilitary force founded by Arafat; and is closely allied and likely a founder of Al Aksa Brigades, a terrorist spin-off of Fatah.
Barghouti — touted as having charisma and anti-corruption credentials — has been seen by some as a way to bolster Fatah as a foil to Hamas. Just three months ago, former defense minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said, "if talking with Barghouti results in him leading the Palestinians in the direction of making Hamas knuckle under, then that is what counts…Barghouti…wins a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of respect, not only because of the fact that he is in prison, but rather because…’he is the cleanest of them all.’ But you have to remember that we are also talking about a leader, who, even when he is a prisoner, should not be not be scorned and should be listened to."
We could focus on the sickening spectacle of a member of the Israeli cabinet referring to a terrorist as a leader who should be listened to, who says he shouldn’t be scorned even though he is a prisoner. We could ask what this makes of the PA, if this is their vision of leadership. But let’s look at something else:
The Hamas demand tells us something we need to know about Fatah-Hamas connections. For the current scenario flies in the face of what people such as Ben Eliezer have been promoting.
But those advancing that theory haven’t been paying careful attention: A full two years ago Barghouti was saying from his prison cell that Hamas and Fatah were moving in the same direction and Palestinian guns should be aimed only against the "occupation."
The supreme irony is that Abbas is said to be opposed to Barghouti’s release now because it would be counted as a Hamas victory that further weakens Abbas.
So, the next question is whether Israel would go along with this. And, wouldn’t you know it, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said yesterday that, “He will probably be on the list [of prisoners presented by Hamas for release], and if there is a need then yes, [I’m for releasing] him too.”
Vilnai explained that he could not look people in the eye and say "we’re giving up on Gilad Shalit." Will he look the families of terrorist victims in the eye when Barghouti institutes more terror?
And Ben Eliezer? He’s still on board with this, saying now — Heaven help us! — that, "Barghouti is someone you can sit and talk to." If you like to chat with terrorists.
Olmert’s office denies that there is consideration being given to releasing Barghouti. And you know what? That denial counts as nothing for me.
Turns out that Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) believes that Barghouti shouldn’t be released. He recognizes that Barghouti would strengthen Hamas.
Finally, Lieberman is talking about pulling out of the coalition, although I have to see it to believe it. He says he’ll go if Israel negotiates on the "core issues."
If Lieberman’s party, with 11 seats , does leave, it will not reduce the coalition to less than 61.
Originally it was thought that if he left , Shas would too — and that would have done it. But things have now changed. Olmert, you see, has reactivated the defunct Religious Affairs Ministry, which Shas MK Yitzhak Cohen will head. That’s enough reason to stay in a government that is endangering the country, don’t you think?
Just for the record, the new Ministry is being called the Religious Services Ministry, and Olmert is adamant that the Religious Affairs Ministry has not been brought back — as the new Ministry will stay under Olmert’s jurisdiction and only some of the functions that adhered to the Religious Affairs Ministry will apply here. He says it’s a "fabrication" that he made this move now to keep Shas in the government with Winograd pending.
According to Haaretz today, a special committee headed by Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qurei will negotiate the core issues — Jerusalem, borders, refugees — after Bush leaves.