Hamas’s latest negotiating ploy is to ask for Israel to release Marwan Barghouti, a popular Fatah leader who is serving a handful of life sentences for murder. Barghouti is often compared by the press and his Western admirers to Nelson Mandela, because his admirers have very active imaginations.
Freeing Barghouti is the “break glass in case of emergency” option for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The belief is that he has become both popular enough and moderate enough to lead the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas, who is still alive and refuses to hold elections and therefore cannot be replaced by the Palestinian Mandela or the Australian Ghandi or the Ecuadorian Martin Luther King or the Scandinavian Dalai Lama or anyone else.
In the absence of any other changes, therefore, what freeing Barghouti would accomplish is the further destabilization of the Palestinian Authority-ruled West Bank. Hamas thinks this is a great idea. The Israelis are unconvinced.
Barghouti’s advocates in the West like to tout his support for a two-state solution. But Barghouti’s starting position is at the 1967 lines, from which Israeli-Palestinian negotiations moved on a decade and a half ago, so perhaps his supporters like him because he’d actually undo some of the progress made toward a two-state solution.