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Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

Israel is prepared to release confessed intifada architect and terrorist group founder Marwan Barghouti as part of a larger prisoner exchange with Hamas, this column has learned.

Sources in Hamas, the Egyptian government and the Barghouti family all said they were informed Israel would release Barghouti if there were a larger prisoner exchange that would bring home kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman, Mark Regev, would neither confirm nor deny the report. “We’d like to have Gilad Shalit back home, and we’re making serious efforts,” he told this column.

A separate source in Olmert’s office, however, confirmed the report.

Barghouti, serving multiple life terms for killing and planning the murders of scores of Israeli civilians, successfully ran in Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006, stressing as part of his election platform his efforts in planning the intifada. He is a founder of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.

Although Hamas is at odds with Fatah, the Islamist group has publicly included Barghouti among the top of its list of prisoners it wants released for Shalit. Hamas wants to be seen as the deal maker.

However, informed Israeli diplomatic sources said that if a larger deal is struck for Shalit, the Jewish state is considering announcing the release of Barghouti as a declared gesture to Abbas – not Hamas – in order to bolster his Fatah party.

Recognition Of Israel Not On The Table

Recognition of Israel is not on the table at talks aimed at creating a unity government between Hamas and Fatah, according to participants taking part in the discussions.

Two sources with inside knowledge of the unity talks taking place in Egypt both confirmed to WorldNetDaily that Hamas is not being asked to recognize Israel as a condition for joining the PA. Instead, Abbas’s Fatah party, under international pressure, is asking for Hamas to recognize, but not agree to, past agreements with Israel, including one deal that tacitly recognizes the Jewish state’s right to exist.

Mushir al-Massri, a Hamas spokesman and parliament member, told this column, “The world is asking us to recognize Israel, but Fatah does not recognize Israel. It’s not demanded from Fatah, and you [Americans] give plenty of money to Fatah, so why are you asking Hamas to recognize [Israel]?”

Indeed, contrary to popular perception, Fatah has never officially recognized Israel. In 1994, the Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO, signed what was known as the “recognition principals,” in which the PLO formally agreed to recognize Israel. Fatah is the largest faction of the PLO, and as such, is thought to be party to the recognition agreement.

However, Fatah’s official charter still calls for Israel’s destruction. The last time Fatah held its official congress – in which it amended its charter – was in 1989. At that time, Fatah declared jihad on Israel and called for the destruction of the Jewish state. Although PLO leader Yasir Arafat later made a statement to the French media in which he claimed that portion of Fatah’s charter null and void, the terms were never officially nullified.

According to Fatah bylaws, the group’s charter can only be changed by vote during an official Fatah congress session.

Fatah Responsible For
Last Week’s Deadly Attack

Fatah gunmen called this reporter to claim responsibility for the deadly shooting this past week of two Israeli traffic police officers. A top leader of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said the attack was carried out to avenge the Feb. 12, 2007 assassination of Hizbullah arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh.

He said the attack was perpetuated by members of what he called the Imad Mughniyeh Brigades, which he said is composed of Fatah Al Aqsa Brigades gunmen.

“We in the Brigades want to clarify that all efforts of the U.S. and [PA Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad’s government to eliminate Fatah as a fighting movement won’t succeed,” he said.

Although the Fatah terrorist leader said he called multiple other media outlets with this information, Israeli media are not associating Imad Mughniyeh with Fatah. Both the U.S. and Israel consider Fatah to be moderate.

Fatah Worried That U.S. Is
Changing Its Tone Toward Hamas

There is deep concern in Fatah that the U.S. government has changed its attitude toward Hamas and may be ready to end the terrorist group’s isolation, a senior PA negotiator said.

“Three years of the siege against Hamas is ending,” said the PA negotiator, speaking from Ramallah on condition of anonymity. “There is a new policy in the Obama administration regarding Hamas. We are concerned Hamas is starting to be a legitimate player in the equation of the Mideast and the PA.”

The negotiator met two weeks ago with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Asked whether Clinton or any other U.S. official expressed direct support for starting a U.S. dialogue with Hamas, the PA negotiator replied, “No. But there are troubling signs.”

He pointed to recent U.S. support for a unity government between Hamas and Fatah. “This is the first time the U.S. has supported such a unity government. There was no objection from the U.S. about Hamas joining the PA,” he said.

Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs and is the author of the book “Schmoozing with Terrorists.”

About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.


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