In the two interviews, with al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, Barghouti said the objective behind the elections was to "establish a national reform government where everyone participates."
The Tanzim leader is serving life sentences in Hadarim prison in central Israel, but officials decided to allow the unusual move and permitted media teams to enter the prison for the interview. Palestinian sources said the interviews were arranged through American intervention. During a meeting between Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the two agreed to focus on Barghouti as a leader not tainted by corruption, in the framework of the contest against Hamas.
According to Barghouti, Fatah and Hamas "are moving in the direction of partnership on the ground and in the legislative council. The elections are our intifada of independence. This vote is one of the means of resistance."
"Following the elections, we'll need a reform government that enjoys wide support," the jailed Tanzim leader said.
In the interview with al-Jazeera, Barghouti said: "From my prison cell I call on my great people, the Palestinians, to all take part in these elections. These elections are a sign of loyalty to deceased President Yasser Arafat, to (assassinated Hamas leader) Ahmed Yassin, to Abu Ali Mustafa, and to other martyrs who died."
'No future for occupation'
Barghouti also noted Palestinian arms must not be turned toward others, "with the exception of resistance to the occupation."
"All organizations will defend the elections," He said. "These weapons are holy and they have one role – to resist the occupation and protect our people. The organizations have one job – to protect the Palestinian people."
Although he refused to submit for an interview with Israeli journalists, Barghouti directed a message at the Israeli public.
"I ask the Israeli people to understand there's no future to the occupation. The occupation is a burden. They must rid themselves of this burden," he said.
The interviews were aired in the wake of reports that Barghouti may be released following the elections. According to one scenario, one of the options examined was to release Barghouti in exchange for the release of Jonathan Pollard, jailed in the U.S. after being convicted of spying for Israel. However, the idea was reporetedly dropped in light of the American Administration's objection.
Fatah members as well as European and American officials hope airing the interviews would allow Fatah to open a large gap versus Hamas, despite recent polls showing the two movements are in a tight race.
Meanwhile, Fatah has been distributing signs in recent days declaring "Abu Amar (Arafat) is voting for Barghouti, who are you voting for?" The signs also feature a photo of Yasser Arafat carrying a poster of Barghouti.
Roee Nahmias contributed to the story