The favorite? Barak
Photo: AP

Fatah wanted men rooting for Barak

Members of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades granted clemency by Israel fear change of guard at Defense Ministry, 'It's not like we've all become Ehud Barak aficionados, but he is the minister who struck the deal,' says pardoned gunman

Unlikely supporters: High-ranking Fatah members who used to be on Israel's most wanted list are following Labor's negotiations with the Likud closely, for fear that a new defense minister may overturn the Ehud Barak's order to pardon 270 al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades operatives.


In late of 2007, Israel and the Palestinian Authority struck a deal under which the former agreed to grant clemency to Fatah military wing members who will surrender their weapons and pledge to cease any involvement in armed activities.


According to the clemency agreement, Israel allowed those men to live within Area A, which is under the Palestinian Authority's full control, effectively taking them off the most wanted list.


So far, 100 men have been granted a full pardon and a second group was granted partial clemency. A third group is scheduled to be turned over to the Palestinian Authority, which will hold them in one of its facilities for several months before they will be paroled.


Over the past few weeks, however, reports that Knesset Member Moshe Yaalon has been tapped to become the defense minister in the new Likud-led government, have Fatah members concerned that Israel may renege on the deal.


"We've gone back to civilian life, we've returned our weapons and went back to our families knowing that we kept our part of the deal and we want to turn a new leaf. We are very concerned by the new government in Israel," a former senior member of the al-Aqsa Brigades told Ynet.


Formally on the defense establishment's most wanted list, the now-pardoned operative said that he and his peers are completely committed to the Palestinian Authority and that they are concerned the new Israeli government may initiate a new manhunt.


"A radical right-wing government, with (Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor) Lieberman and Yaalon will only be committed to its voting sector. They will try to hinder the agreement just so they can justify the collapse of the peace process," he said.


As for the Labor chairman being their candidate of choice for the Defense Ministry, the source said that "it's not like we've all become Ehud Barak aficionados, but he is the minister who struck the deal.


"Today, these men are not only a part of the Palestinian security system, they're also part of all of the Palestinian Authority's campaigns to enforce the law and deal with matters of security," he added.


"Many in the Palestinian public, especially members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, look at us as if we denounced our history and the Palestinian struggle," said another Palestinian source. "We don't want to have Israel come after us atop of this problematic image. We don't want to be the ones who lost either way."


פרסום ראשון: 03.23.09, 17:27
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