Jailed Palestinian Leader Wants Change
By JAMIE TARABAY
JERUSALEM (AP - 3 Dec) - A jailed leader of the Palestinian uprising, Marwan Barghouti, issued a call Tuesday for change in the Palestinian Authority - the first time he has openly challenged Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
In a written response to questions from The Associated Press presented to Barghouti in prison by his lawyer, Khader Shkirat, Barghouti said the Palestinian Authority should hurry along elections and make way for a new, younger leadership. However, Barghouti did not mention Arafat specifically.
``It is the time for many of the Palestinian leaders and officials to leave their positions after failing in their roles and responsibilities in this decisive battle,'' Barghouti said, referring to the 2-year-old Palestinian uprising. ``This should be done in a democratic and legal way as soon as possible.''
Contrary to some other members of Fatah, Arafat's political movement, Barghouti steadfastly supports the militarization of the uprising.
In recent weeks several high-profile Palestinian officials have said the armed uprising was a mistake and should stop. Barghouti said it was Israel's use of heavy weapons - helicopter and fighter planes to attack Palestinian security installations - that pushed Palestinians to use weapons themselves.
``Resistance is a holy right for the Palestinian people to face the Israeli occupation,'' Barghouti wrote. ``Nobody should forget that the Palestinian people negotiated for 10 years and accepted difficult and humiliating agreements and in the end didn't get anything except authority over the people, and no authority over land or sovereignty.''
Israel's previous, dovish government offered the Palestinians a state in all of Gaza and more than 90 percent of the West Bank, with a foothold in Jerusalem. But the sides could not agree on borders and the future of Palestinian refugees, talks broke down amid violence and Israelis elected a more hardline government.
Barghouti was arrested during Israel's military offensive in the West Bank in April. He is on trial for murder, attempted murder and being an accessory to murder for organizing attacks that killed 26 Israelis.
He is also one of the Palestinians' most popular leaders, having managed to maintain grassroots appeal and avoid the stain of corruption that has tainted many of Arafat's supporters.
His imprisonment has only served to heighten his popularity: In a survey released last week, 35 percent of Palestinians said they supported Arafat and 21 percent chose Barghouti.
The poll, by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, questioned 1,319 people in personal interviews from Nov. 14-22 and quoted a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Israel and the United States have for months been calling for a change in the Palestinians' leadership. However, there are signs that elections initially scheduled for January will be put off, and in any case Arafat appears to have no serious challengers for his leadership position.