RAMALLAH (Reuters) — From his cell in an Israeli prison, one of the most revered figures in Palestinian politics called on Monday for a new wave of civil resistance in the decades-long quest for statehood, and for severing all ties with Israel.
Marwan Barghouti is a leading figure in the Fatah movement. His leadership and charisma were seen as a driving force behind the last intifada, or uprising, against Israeli occupation launched in late 2000.
His views continue to have deep currency with the Palestinian public and he enjoys wide support across the contending array of Palestinian factions. It is widely speculated that Israel might at some point release Barghouti.
“The launch of large-scale popular resistance at this stage serves the cause of our people,” Barghouti said in a statement commemorating the tenth year of his imprisonment by Israel.
“Stop marketing the illusion that there is a possibility of ending the occupation and achieving a state through negotiations after this vision has failed miserably,” he said in a message read to a crowd of supporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Despite his multiple life sentences on charges of orchestrating lethal attacks and suicide bombings, Barghouti is viewed as a potential successor to President Mahmoud Abbas, who is also Fatah’s leader.
The call to action comes at a combustible period in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since a war in 1967, as economic malaise, moribund diplomacy, and simmering popular discontent bode ill for any peaceful breakthroughs.
Some fear that planned Palestinian commemorations of an annual protest against Israeli land confiscations on Friday, including marches to Jerusalem, could erupt in violence.
A 40-day long hunger strike by female detainee Hana Shalabi and a similar campaign by dozens of other Palestinians in Israeli custody are also firing popular anger.
In his address, Barghouti called for “stopping all forms of security and economic coordination (with Israel) in all areas immediately,” which would upend years of often volatile but persistent coexistence between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, while lending rhetorical support to protests and pursuing recognition in various bodies of the United Nations, has until now cleaved to a more non-confrontational policy.
After Abbas’s government scored a minor victory in persuading the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva to investigate Israel’s settlement policy, Barghouti argued for more drastic action.
He called for “a renewal of efforts” to achieve recognition of Palestinian statehood at the UN Security Council, an effort which failed last year when Washington backed Israel’s rejection of the resolution as a unilateral move to sidestep negotiations.
Barghouti said that the Palestinians should take their statehood case to the General Assembly or other agencies as an alternative, alluding to forums in which the Palestinians have wider support.