Environment Minister Gideon Ezra, a senior political ally of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and who is a former deputy director of the Shin Bet, said that Israel should release Palestinian prisoner Marwan Barghouti (photo) in order to prop up Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Barghouti, as leader of the al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades, was convicted in 2004 for the murders of four Israelis and a Greek monk and one attempted murder. He was sentenced to five life terms.
Barghouti is the most popular leader in the Palestinian territories. He is regarded as the only figure able to unify clashing Palestinian factions, rein in militants and get peace talks with Israel moving again.
Spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s office, Miri Eisen, said the release of Barghouti was “not on the agenda.”