- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

Aside from Yasser Arafat himself, no individual has been more closely identified with the wave of suicide attacks and other forms of Palestinian violence over the past 23 months than Marwan Barghouti, who was indicted last week on charges of killing more than two dozen Israelis.
Mr. Barghouti, an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the West Bank chief of Mr. Arafat's dominant Fatah faction of the PLO, claims to be a supporter of "peace" with Israel. But Israel charges that Mr. Barghouti, who was arrested in Ramallah April 15, played a key role in directing two Fatah-linked terrorist groups, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and the Tanzim militia, which are responsible for scores of attacks on Israelis since September 2000.
When his trial resumes on Sept. 5, prosecutors say they will present evidence showing that Mr. Barghouti was in continuous contact with Mr. Arafat, who directly oversaw the allocation of funds to Palestinian terrorists even as he was issuing statements denouncing their attacks. Prosecutors say that, for all his claims to favor some sort of peace settlement with Israel, Mr. Barghouti worked together with rejectionist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in coordinating violence against the Jewish state.
Following the September 1993 Oslo peace agreement signed at the White House by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Mr. Arafat, Mr. Barghouti frequently met with and actively courted Israeli doves by talking about a "two-state solution," with Israel and a Palestinian state co-existing. After his election to the PLC, Mr. Barghouti became popular among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza by denouncing the pervasive corruption in Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA).
Another more sinister thing also kept Mr. Barghouti popular during this period of relative calm: his willingness to speak openly of violence unless Israel capitulated to Palestinian territorial demands. For example, in a May 1998 interview with Independent Media Review Analysis, an Israeli news service, Mr. Barghouti defended Palestinian demonstrations in which models of Israeli settlements were blown up.
In a Sept. 29, 2001 interview with the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat, he spoke openly about his critical role in initiating the Palestinian violence that has engulfed Israel and the West Bank in response to Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount one year earlier. At first, Mr. Barghouti said, he was unsuccessful in whipping local Palestinians into a frenzy in response to the Sharon visit. But, within days, his fortunes began to change. He joined with Hamas operatives in issuing a leaflet calling for a violent reaction "to what happened in Jerusalem." By the middle of October 2000, Mr. Barghouti had become the head of a joint coordinating body including all of the leading Palestinian radical groups: Fatah; Hamas; Islamic Jihad and the PFLP. The groups began working together in carrying out attacks on Israelis.
In a Jan. 16, 2002 op-ed in The Washington Post, Mr. Barghouti asserted that while he and his Fatah colleagues "strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel, our future neighbor, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom." Just one day after his article was published by the Post, a member of Mr. Barghouti's Tanzim organization shot up a bat mitzvah party at a banquet hall in Hadera, a coastal town in pre-1967 Israel, killing six people and wounding 30. Israeli security services have said that Barghouti had advance knowledge of the attack and gave it his blessing.
Israel also accuses Mr. Barghouti of involvement in scores of other attacks, including the murder of a Greek Orthodox monk near Jerusalem last June; a Jan. 22, 2002 shooting spree in downtown Jerusalem in which two Israelis were killed and 37 wounded; a Feb. 25, 2002 shooting attack in Jerusalem in which a policewoman was killed and nine other Israelis injured; and a March 5, 2002 rampage at a seafood restaurant in Tel Aviv, in which three Israelis were shot to death and 31 more wounded.
When he appeared in court last Wednesday in Tel Aviv, Mr. Barghouti was defiant, saying his arrest was a "crime" and that he was only fighting to end Israel's occupation of the West Bank. Of course, he conveniently disregards the fact that Prime Minister Ehud Barak put forward an offer to do substantially that at Camp David 25 months ago. Mr. Arafat rejected that offer and, allegedly with Mr. Barghouti's assistance, launched a war of terror against Israel eight weeks later. The Barghouti murder trial is likely to shed more light on the inner workings of the Palestinian terror network.

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