In recent months, Fatah leader Marwan Al-Barghouti, who is serving five life-sentences in Israel for orchestrating terrorist attacks during the second intifada, was mentioned again as a potential candidate to succeed Mahmoud 'Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA). This occurs against the backdrop of recent criticism of 'Abbas's performance as PA president and as Fatah and PLO chairman, as well as 'Abbas's own statements that he will not run in the next presidential elections. Barghouti's wife Fadwa said on February 24, 2016 that her husband planned to submit his candidacy for president.
Barghouti enjoys wide support among the Palestinian public, especially among Fatah activists. Fatah officials, including PLO Executive Committee secretary Saeb Erekat and Fatah Revolutionary Committee secretary Amin Maqboul have declared that they support him for president. His supporters realize the problem posed by his being incarcerated in Israel, due to which he has been dubbed "the Palestinian Mandela" and compared to this South African leader who led his people's struggle from prison.
In the past year a campaign supporting Barghouti for president has been waged on Facebook. For example, in May 2015 a "Barghouti for President" hashtag was launched, and in December 2015 a Facebook page was dedicated to a "campaign of loyalty to the imprisoned commander Marwan Barghouti." In response to Fadwa Barghouti's announcement that he planned to participate in the presidential elections, this page stated that "the imprisoned commander Marwan Barghouti has heeded the will of the Palestinian street and declared his intention to run for president. This decision is a crucial [step towards] correcting the course of the Palestinian cause and rescuing the national movement."
Images posted on the "campaign of loyalty" Facebook page on February 25, 2016, March 23, 2016.
"His Excellency, Palestinian President Marwan Barghouti". Posted on a pro-Barghouti hashtag, March 3, 2016
Apart from Barghouti, no other figure has explicitly declared an intention to run for president, and even Barghouti's position is not completely clear after on March 26, 2016, his wife Fadwa clarified that there was no point in his announcing his candidacy when no date has been set for the election. She said that once a date is set, he will express his position on the matter. The press, mostly the non-Palestinian press, has mentioned several potential candidates, including former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad; PLO Executive Committee secretary and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat; Fatah Executive Committee member Nasser Al-Kidwa, who is a nephew of Yasser Arafat; Palestinian Legislative Council member Muhammad Dahlan, who was expelled from Fatah after 'Abbas accused him of conspiring against him; head of the Palestinian Football Federation and Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub; PA security chief in the West Bank Majed Faraj; and former Palestinian general intelligence head Tawfiq Al-Tirawi, now the commander of the PA military academy in Jericho.
On March 22, 2016, the Palestinian daily Al-Quds, based in East Jerusalem, published an article by Barghouti in which he challenged the current policies of the PA and its head, Mahmoud 'Abbas. He stated that the "popular awakening," as the Palestinians call the current wave of attacks, is "a clear answer" to the failure of the negotiations, which have proved to be pointless and illusory. However, he expressed regret that since its outbreak, no Palestinian, Arab or international element has adopted this awakening so as to move it forward into a new kind of comprehensive popular uprising. He stressed that, before launching such an uprising, there is need for national unity; more importantly, there is need to revive the discourse of national liberation that has been marginalized by the pointless negotiations and by the preoccupation with "legality and UN resolutions, which are not connected to the reality on the ground."
Barghouti argued that renewing the discourse of national liberation would help the PA to break free of the dependence on Israel and to end the security coordination with it, and would enable a division of labor between the PA and resistance groups, such that the PA would provide services to the population, while the resistance organizations would be tasked with confronting Israel.
Barghouti accused the PA of betraying its role and denying freedoms to the Palestinians, which, he said, has created an ideological fixation that prevents the younger generation from joining the circle of decision-makers and taking part in action towards national liberation. He accused the PLO in failing to offer a political and social vision that is compatible with the notion of democratic and enlightened national liberation.
He stated further that reviving the national liberation discourse would clearly differentiate the Palestinians from the "takfiris" - global jihad organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda - and position them as a liberation and resistance movement within the camp that champions progress and freedom and opposes wars and occupation.
In addition, Barghouti called to achieve reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, incorporate all Palestinian factions in the PLO institutions, bring youths and women into politics, avoid corruption, and break free of the lethargy and the mentality of marginalization and autocracy that dominate the PA. He also called to convene a summit that would include representatives of all Palestinians, including those living in Israel and in the diaspora.
The following are excerpts from the article.
We Must Promote National Unity, Transition To Comprehensive Intifada
"History must march forward, and it is a grave error to stand in its way. The resistance of the peoples to imperialism, injustice, oppression, occupation, enslavement, exploitation, and aggression against human dignity is in line with the natural progression [of history]. Additionally, the relationship between a people subjected to oppression and imperialism and the colonialist imperialism [itself] is one of rejection, resistance, and boycott by all ways and means - it is not coexistence or ceasefire.
"The current popular awakening, much like the 2000 Al-Aqsa Intifada, reflects the stark contradiction between the imperialists and those subordinate to them. It is a clear answer to the failure of the option of negotiations, and allows the path to be changed and positions to be clarified.
"It is regrettable that in this uprising, which has continued for five months with no signs of stopping, there has yet to be one local, Arab, or international element to adopt it politically, socially, informationally, and financially, or to move it forward into a comprehensive popular intifada and to equip it with goals and a political view that do not just continue the previous phase, with its miserable leaders and policy.
"We desperately need to turn the awakening into a popular intifada of a new kind, different from the first and second intifadas... But the transition to a comprehensive intifada requires that we first end the schism, and then that we actualize national unity, because that is an impetus for a popular awakening and is a fundamental element in the victory of national liberation movements and movements to liberate oppressed peoples."
From A Liberation Movement, The PA Has Turned Into A Mediator Between The Palestinian Residents And The Occupation; We Must Revive The Discourse Of National Liberation
"National unity is important, but the more important element in emerging from the crisis is the revival of the discourse of national liberation. [This discourse] can rebuild the Palestinian people's alliance with democratic and progressive forces in the Arab world, and with peaceful elements that support popular liberation worldwide.
"The pointless negotiations and their political path have robbed us to a great extent of the elements of the discourse of [Palestinian national] liberation, in favor of the discourse of legality and UN resolutions, which are not connected to the reality on the ground...
"Renewing the discourse of national liberation will free us from the many demands that have transformed the PA from leader of a national liberation movement to mediator between the residents and the occupation, [dealing with] a long list of endless day-to-day matters for over 20 years. This equation has played up the PA at the expense of the PLO - not because of the PA's strength, but because of the PLO's weakness. This begs the question: Is dismantling the PA a necessary condition for reviving the PLO?
"Reviving the discourse of the liberation movement will reposition the resistance and the PA as [elements] that complement each other, because the PA's role will be reduced to maintaining steadfastness in terms of the economy, finance, education, healthcare, and more. As part of this role, it will relinquish its security role vis-├á-vis the occupation, and will allow resistance to confront the imperialist [occupation] and its apparatuses."
The PA Has Betrayed Its Role, Usurped The People's Freedoms
"The PA has betrayed its role in both parts of the homeland [West Bank and Gaza], and has usurped the residents' freedoms - for it is inconceivable that a national liberation organization should suppress the liberties of its people while at the same time freeing the people's homeland. It is also inconceivable that any political organization will control the future [of the Palestinian people] without controlling its [various] factions, because freedom is what builds and renews the national discourse and what enables us to invent the tools for struggle that are appropriate for each stage. Freedom is [also] the chief catalyst for dealing with the stagnation and atrophy in the factions' and organizations' thought that has impacted the entire national situation. This [ideological] fixation is preventing innovation and prevents young people from receiving key positions that will let them influence policy and positions, including rescuing the [Palestinian] national enterprise, and [likewise] prevents them from creating their own future and opening the door to future generations to also participate in national liberation activity.
"If we wish to overcome the deficiencies of this phase, we must revive [our] discourse and our structure by adhering to the national liberation discourse and [incorporating] the young [generation] in the political structure, which will set us on an alternate national path."
The National Discourse Will Allow Us To Deal With The Takfiri Trend
"Reality abhors a vacuum, and today, unfortunately, the vacuum has been filled by the forces of takfiri ideology [i.e. ideology that accuses other Muslims of heresy, typical of the global jihadi organizations]. This ideology is spreading like wildfire, especially among the circles of young people, through the effective use of modern tools and by taking advantage of the fact that the occupation helps to create an environment that embraces takfiri discourse. [The occupation does] this with the aim of driving a wedge between the struggle to liberate Palestine and the democratic and progressive forces worldwide that support this struggle, by creating an ostensible symmetry between legitimate resistance and takfiri terrorism.
"In light of the escalation in the closed, extremist Jewish ethno-nationalist discourse, we must cling to the enlightened national liberation discourse that is expressed in the terms of the Palestinian national charter and the  document of independence, as well as the platform of the Palestinian factions and parties.
"Unfortunately, the PLO factions have failed to present a new political-social-economic-educational vision that is in line with the idea of enlightened and democratic national liberation which is open to humane civilizations.
"The revival and prioritization of the national and democratic discourse will set the boundary and the divider between us and the takfiri trends, and will underline our position as a liberation and resistance movement in the camp of liberation and progress that opposes the war, occupation, racism, colonialism, and tyranny in which Israel is entrenched. While the vanguard that led to the outbreak of the [Palestinian] revolution successfully captured the historic moment and brought the PLO into the forces of liberation, democracy, and justice that are on the right side of history, challenge that we are facing boils down to this: Can we revive that [original] moment and occasion?"
We Need A Revolution To Establish The Elements Of Steadfastness; The PA Failed To Understand The Potential Of The Current Awakening
"The democratic national discourse is by itself not enough to overcome the crisis and move from helplessness and paralysis to action. We must implement a social, economic, and security policy that suits the discourse of the national liberation movement.
"It is inconceivable for security coordination with the occupation authorities to continue while at the same time we are claiming to be a liberation movement that is fighting this occupation. It is inconceivable for the [Palestinian] Authority to establish failing societal frameworks and values, and to continue to pass antiquated laws that prevent society from advancing - especially vis-├á-vis women, young people, and freedoms - while at the same time claiming that it is working towards liberation. It is impossible to separate the liberation of the land from the liberation of the people. There is no escape from revolutionizing education, ideology, and culture, as well as our code of laws, in order to establish the elements of steadfastness for our people and to give the young generation hope and confidence to continue and to develop its struggle in order to gain liberty, [the right of] return, and national independence."
"The Palestinian Authority failed to realize the meaning of the awakening that has provided a national compass with which we can change our path, [directing it] far away from the illusions of negotiations and false peace. The official leadership did not take advantage of this historic moment, continuing to march in place and repeat the same discourse and [use] the same tools, disconnected from the masses that took the first step to correct the path... and to bring the Palestinian cause back to the center of attention, in the shadow of the dramatic events in the Arab arena that have overshadowed the problem of Palestine."
We Must Create A New Elite Ready To Pay The Price Of National Liberation
"In order to emerge from the crisis, we must achieve national reconciliation, end the tragic schism, and reshape the Palestinian national movement and regime. This should be done by adopting a national plan based on the national charter, the document of independence, and the national consensus document drawn up by the prisoners;[v] by building full national partnership in the PLO, the [Palestinian] Authority, the Palestinian National Council, the Legislative Council, and the other institutions; by establishing democratic political pluralism by means of regular presidential and parliamentary elections that will include the Palestinian National Council, in order to bring in new blood and new minds; by creating a new, vital, and dynamic political elite committed to values and courageously prepared to pay the price exacted by a phase of national liberation that is distant from corruption, illegal profiteering, laxity, impotence, failure, and the mentality of marginalization and autocracy.
"We require a new [social] structure in which women - 50% of society - are completely equal partners, and in which young men and women participate. We need a structure that adopts the principle of comprehensive resistance to the occupation and to the entire Zionist colonialist plan.
"These phenomenal tasks require us to convene a national summit, with the participation of all political forces, social and economic activists, academic elites, and representatives from the youth, women, freed prisoners, and Palestinians in the 1948 territories and the diaspora."
 Alresalah.ps, February 14, 2016.
 Facebook.com/President.marwan.barghouti, February 24, 2016.
 Amad.ps, March 26, 2016.
 Al-Quds (Jerusalem), March 22, 2016.
 A document drafted in 2006 by representatives of the Palestinian factions in an Israeli prison, which called to incorporate Hamas and Islamic jihad in the PLO.