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Former Shin Bet Head Insists Release of Marwan Barghouti Is Only Hope for Peace

Marwan Barghouti from his Facebook page.

Admiral Ami Ayalon, former commander of the Israeli Navy and former head of the domestic secret service, Shin Bet, argued for the release of Palestinian Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti as the only hope for peace between Israel and Palestine. The comments were made in an interview with Haaretz's Yossi Melman, and dealt with the “day after” the fighting ends. The Teller Report translated the interview into English on Jan. 8, which we use below.

Ayalon said that Israel must prioritize the release of Palestinian resistance leader Marwan Barghouti in return for Israeli hostages. “This is the right move on both sides, firstly because the return of Israeli hostages is the closest to the ‘image of victory’ in the current (military) campaign in Gaza, and second, because Barghouti is the only Palestinian leader who can be elected within a unified and legitimate Palestinian leadership on the road to a peaceful solution … with the Palestinians.”

Melman asked Ayalon what would be the result if Israel eliminated Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, and wouldn’t that be a victory? Ayalon replied: “No. Even if the spirit of Sinwar ascends to its righteousness. If anyone thinks the Palestinians will surrender, they don’t know the Palestinians, and they don’t know Hamas and the radical Islamist movements of this century.”

Ayalon sees the current conflict as yet another battle for Israel’s independence. Nonetheless he made clear that did not have to happen. The 2002 Arab League peace proposal, in which the Arab states agreed to recognize Israel and establish full relations with it on the basis of UN and Security Council resolutions, was a victory for Israel. “We won in March 2002,” he said. “The tragedy is that we refuse to recognize our victory and continue to fight. We have turned war into an end in itself.”

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