Senior PA Official Visits Jailed Palestinian Leader Barghouti With Elections Planned

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Al-Sheikh at the entrance of the Hadarim prison in Israel, February 11, 2021.
Al-Sheikh at the entrance of the Hadarim prison in Israel, February 11, 2021. Credit: Hadas Parush

Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian minister who acts as a liasion with Israel, has met with Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti Thursday, sources told Haaretz.

According to the sources, the Israeli Prison Services approved al-Sheikh’s visit. A visit of this sort is exceptional, since Israeli Prison Services does not allow security prisoners to receive outside visitors since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet the Israeli Prison Services declined to comment on the visit, saying that they do not respond to foreign reports.

First in 15 years: Palestinian election may become reality as factions near reconciliation

Fatah sources, including members of Barghouti’s inner circle, told Haaretz that the talks will focus on the issue of the upcoming Palestinian election and that al-Sheikh, who is considered a close confidant to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, will hear from Barghouti about whether or not he intends to run for the presidency, or to what extent he plans to be involved in the upcoming election. 

Barghouti’s associates say no formal decision has yet been made regarding his candidacy, since party lists are still being finalized.

A graffiti impression of Marwan Barghouthi on the West Bank wall, 2017. Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP

Barghouti currently serves as a chairman of the Fatah party’s central committee, yet Abbas has since announced that committee members cannot run in the upcoming election, a decision which stirred controversy. A senior Fatah official told Haaretz that Barghouti is expected to wait until he makes a decision following Abbas’ announcement.

Another issue that hasn’t yet been clarified is the extent to which Fatah and Hamas would decide to run jointly in the West Bank or Gaza and whether Barghouti would agree to be a part of such a list. In addition, there are a growing number of voices in the West Bank for independent parties to run in the poll.

Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences and another 40 years in prison for his involvement in murders and terror attacks in the second intifada in Israel. He was previously known as the commander of the 'Tanzim,' a militant faction of Fatah. After his arrest in 2002 during Operation Defenseive Shield, he was prosecuted, acquitted from 32 charges but was convicted of the murder of four people.

On January 16, Mahmoud Abbas announced that Palestinians will head to the polls for the first elections in more than a decade. The decree by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declaring parliamentary and presidential elections for the Palestinian Authority in May and July, respectively – 14 and 15 years after the previous ones, which were both supposed to be four-year terms – was welcomed across the spectrum.

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