In an interview with the Guardian published Jan. 14, former Israeli Shin Bet chief and former commander of the Israeli Navy Ami Ayalon called for the release from an Israeli prison of Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.
“We Israelis will have security only when they, Palestinians, will have hope. This is the equation,” he said. “To say the same in military language: you cannot deter anyone, a person or a group, if he believes he has nothing to lose.” He added that most Israelis believed that “all Palestinians are Hamas or supporters of Hamas,” and they did not accept the concept of a Palestinian identity. “We see them as people, not ‘a people,’ a nation. We cannot accept [the idea of a Palestinian people] because if we do, it creates a huge obstacle in the concept of the state of Israel,” he said.
He told the Guardian that he believes releasing Barghouti would be a vital step towards meaningful negotiations. “Look into the Palestinian polls. He is the only leader who can lead Palestinians to a state alongside Israel. First of all because he believes in the concept of two states, and secondly because he won his legitimacy by sitting in our jails.”
While denouncing the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, he also said: “In a way what [senior Hamas figure Yahya Sinwar] wanted to do, was to tell everyone in the Arab world, the Muslim world and the international community, America, Europe: You will not achieve anything in the Middle East, unless you put the Palestinian issue on the table.”