04/01/2021, 14.40
PALESTINE – ISRAEL
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Sabella: Barghouti’s list can bring vigour and renewal to Palestinians

The Palestinian 'Nelson Mandela' and Arafat's nephew are joining forces for change. This is a turning point in the run-up to May’s Palestinian parliamentary elections and July’s presidential elections, rumours of a postponement notwithstanding. For the Catholic leader, Barghouti represents a break with the policies of recent years. A breakthrough is needed to overcome years of deadlock.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Marwan Barghouti “has come a long way”. He represents a break with the current Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and their “policies of recent years”  which have caused more ill feelings and confusion among Palestinians.

Prof Bernard Sabella, a former Fatah representative and current executive secretary of the Palestinian Refugee Service of the Council of Churches of the Middle East, spoke to AsiaNews following the announcement that Barghouti, a former intifada leader, is planning to run his own list in upcoming Palestinian elections.

Barghouti, who is joining Nasser Al-Kidwa, nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, will bring “a renewal” that can “reinvigorate domestic politics with their list.”

Sabella calls Barghouti “a very popular leader” who “has not been expelled from Fatah” and who could help “break a deadlock” that has lasted too long.

“Since the 2006 elections, the [Palestinian] political system has been stuck; now something could change,” notes Sabella, a Christian.

Some “28 lists have already applied to run, but there could be more. Thirteen have been approved and 15 are waiting” for a decision. “Of these, only five have a real chance of winning any seats” in the Palestinian parliament.

Marwan Barghouti is currently in an Israeli prison. Despite this, he has registered his own list ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled for 22 May and 31 July respectively, unless any last-minute postponement.

His candidacy represents a severe blow to incumbent Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah, who are in danger of losing support to Hamas, their traditional rivals.

Bargouthi's wife, Fadwa, collected the signatures and registered the list just hours before the deadline set by the election commission

Analysts and polls confirm that the fledgling movement could win support from Fatah's voters, so a postponement (or cancellation) of the election, the first in 15 years, should not be excluded.

For Sabella, “This is an unlikely scenario, given that 65 per cent of people believe that they will take place. According to some rumours, the vote might be postponed, but this would cause widespread dissatisfaction. People want to vote and I doubt Fatah will win 45 seats like last time.”

Described by many as the Palestinian Nelson Mandela, the 61-year-old Barghouti is considered one of the leaders of the first and second intifada. He has long supported the Israeli-Palestinian peace process despite disappointment and the lack of progress.

He was tried in Israel and convicted in 2004 on terrorism charges for various attacks on soldiers and civilians. Sentenced to five life sentences, he has been in prison for 19 years but has always refused to defend himself, calling both the court and the trial illegitimate.

A charismatic leader, he is considered a revolutionary, free from corruption. He has been a thorn in the side of the Palestinian Authority, above the rivalries between Hamas and Fatah. Polls suggest that he would beat both Abbas and Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh in the presidential election.

For Sabella, “In all probability, Marwan [Barghouti] and Nasser [Al-Kidwa ] are likely have the number of seats necessary to contribute ideas and proposals for a possible, desirable change.”

“We are tired of the stalemate. The whole world is occupied in other matters, from COVID-19 to political and economic crises, so it is up to us Palestinians to work for a renewal of the political system, putting an end to inequalities and working for education, development”.

The basic problem “is not Abbas but the system that has emerged. We can no longer argue over ideas, policies and slogans that date back to the last century and that are no longer applicable. We must look forward.”

“For far too long, we have forgotten our rights,” explains Sabella. “Today however, there are valid reasons to be optimistic and think about change, also thanks to possible cooperation between a part of Fatah and Barghouti.”

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