Monday, November 15, 2004

Prisoner Exchange 

The next Palestinian leader to be swapped?

The death of Yasser Arafat may soon open the way for a prisoner swap reminiscent of the days of the Cold War. Marwan Barghouti, the man regarded by many as Arafat's successor until his conviction by Israel on June 6 on five counts of murder, is serving a life sentence. The Israeli media is buzzing with rumors that discussions are underway between Cairo, Washington and Jerusalem for a complex three-way prisoner swap in which Barghouti would be freed in return for Israel receiving convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from the United States and convicted Druze Israeli spy Azam Azam from Egypt. According to the reports, pressure for the deal is coming primarily from the Palestinians, who maintain the popular Barghouti is the only leader capable of unifying divisive Palestinian factions, curbing militants and possibly restarting peace efforts. Under Palestinian law, elections are to be held by Jan. 9, or within 60 days of Arafat's death on Nov. 11. While Israel has not previously indicated any inclination to liberate Barghouti, pragmatism may temper the decision. Barghouti also could represent the best chance for Arafat's Fatah blunt efforts by Hamas, increasingly popular in the West Bank and Gaza, to field a candidate.

Pollard's release is more problematic for the Bush administration. A former U.S. Navy civilian intelligence analyst, Pollard was arrested in 1985 and convicted of espionage in March 1987, receiving a life sentence. Pollard himself estimated during his interrogations that the amount of material that he gave the Israelis would form a stack six feet wide, six feet long, and 10 feet high. A small but vocal segment of the Israeli public has ever since campaigned for his release. The case of Druze Israeli businessman Azzam Azzam, who was imprisoned in Egypt November 1996, is more straightforward. In 1997 Azzam was convicted on charges of spying for the United States and Israel and received a 15-year prison sentence. Israel has consistently maintained that Azzam is not an Israeli agent and has persistently raised the case of the Israeli citizen with the Egyptian government.

The Israel's have been trying to get Pollard for a long time, but because the information he provided Israel, MAY have gotten passed on to the Soviets, The United States has always refused his release. But, with Arafat's death, and the Palestinian power vacum, the release of Barghouti may be worth giving up Pollard for-if he can be a respectable Peace talk partner. If he's just another Arafat, forget it. Michael Collins should be the model, not Arafat. When Collins signed the Peace Treaty with England, he knew he was signing his death warrant, but still understood peace was worth it. Not long after signing, he paid the price.

FPN predicted something would happen with Barghouti:
My opinion on who will replace him- Marwan Barghouti. Yes, he's in jail, but that'll just build up his credibility to the militants. Pressure will be put on Israel to release him, and it will happen.


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