The Path Forward: Pollard-Barghouti-Fayyad

The deal that could pave the way to a new Palestinian leadership: Pollard-Barghouti-Fayyad.

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A mural of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, painted on the West Bank separation wall.
A mural of jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, painted on the West Bank separation wall. Credit: Sharon Bukov
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

Most Israelis don’t believe in the peace process. Most Israelis are also unaware of the negative ramifications that could follow the breakdown of that process. Those are the reasons why the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are breaking down amid an air of strange silence.

No one is really surprised by the fact that just before the Israeli government was about to approve a prisoners-for-Pollard deal, Mahmoud Abbas dashed it to pieces. No one is really shaken up by the fact that the housing minister who was effectively appointed by Yair Lapid added his own destructive provocations and poured oil on the flames. Lawsuit follows lawsuit in the Prime Minister’s Residence. Celebrity follows celebrity in the soft drugs affair. The possibility that John Kerry’s great effort to forge peace is collapsing doesn’t bother many people. The possibility that the third attempt at peace (after Camp David and Annapolis) might be the last doesn’t seem to cause much worry. Spring is here, Passover is around the corner. In Israel, the state of illusions, there is joy and merriment.

But Kerry’s endeavor must be salvaged. The alternative is a third intifada, a diplomatic one that could endanger Israel more than the first two because it foretells the final takeover of Zionism by the settler camp and the transformation of Israel into a state lacking prospects for the future. So every effort must be made to resurrect the two-state solution as it lays dying before our eyes. The peace process must be renewed, and repaired in a creative, realistic way. But that takes time. For that to happen, there must be an urgent injection of time to give the Americans, Israelis and Palestinians the year they need to redefine the concept of peace, and begin to implement it.

The previous method of buying time was based on Jonathan Pollard. It didn’t work, as it was too imbalanced. The new method for buying time should be based on Pollard and Marwan Barghouti. Trading Pollard for Barghouti and more time would be a deal that none of the three sides could turn down. American national security couldn’t be harmed by releasing a spy from the 1980s. The Israeli nationalist movement cannot harm the value of redeeming prisoners by demanding to see one Palestinian sitting in jail longer and longer. The Palestinians couldn’t refuse a deal to release the current generation’s most important symbol of the Palestinian resistance movement. Even against their will, Washington, Jerusalem and Ramallah would become partners in a three-way trade having minor significance for security but incredible symbolic importance, and in the process they would buy the necessary time.

But from the Israeli standpoint, releasing someone convicted of being responsible for acts of terror is not a small thing, so Barghouti, for his part, would have to add something to the deal. He must prove that he has turned his back on violence and returned to being a man of peace – like he was during Oslo. The way to do that is to implement an idea he’s been considering for some time: creating a political alliance with Salam Fayyad.

The former Palestinian prime minister is a true man of peace. He embodies the decision made by many Palestinians to choose life over violence. Therefore, if the renowned prisoner and the experienced economist declare that they’re working toward an alliance, it will be clear which way Barghouti will turn after being released. The Barghouti-Fayyad duo will be the natural, necessary complement to the Pollard-Barghouti deal, but it will also be much more than that. It could offer a new Palestinian leadership, and a new road for Palestine, which could renew hopes for peace.

Jonathan Pollard during an interview at the Federal Correction Institution in Butner, North Carolina, May 15, 1998.Credit: AP