The founder of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (the armed wing of the Fateh movement), Marwan Barghouti, has backed a Palestinian move to declare statehood in September, adding that the US and Israel could not stop it. In an interview with Egyptian newspaper al Ahram, Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life sentences in an Israeli jail, said that an independent Palestinian state could not be achieved through negotiations.

Barghouti also gave his backing to the recent unity deal between Fatah and Hamas. He urged Palestinian politicians to use his ‘roadmap to unity’ document, known locally as the Prisoners Document, as a means of resolving differences between the parties. He also discouraged those who would be tempted to “try to manipulate this reconciliation and Palestinian national unity”.

Barghouti has continued to exert influence over the Fatah party while in jail. He comfortably regained his seat in the Palestinian Parliament in 2006, and was a strong contender for the Palestinian Presidency in 2005 before he withdrew his candidacy. He has been a critic of corruption in the PLO and fell out with Yasser Arafat on this point. He was arrested in 2002 in Ramallah and imprisoned in Israel. Israeli human rights group Gush Shalom has called for his release on the basis that he was arrested in a non-Israeli jurisdiction and illegally transferred to Israel.