SHARON AND BARGHOUTI….Over at Democracy Arsenal, Suzanne Nossel reminds us that Iraq isn’t the only place in the Middle East that has an election coming up. On January 25, Palestinians will vote in parliamentary elections, and the winner may be the late Yasser Arafat’s Fatah party:

In an interesting wrinkle, in Fatah primaries held in Ramallah over the weekend, the overwhelming victor was Marwan Barghouti, a long-time leader who is currently serving five successive life sentences in an Israeli prison for his involvement in terrorist activities.

The results have fueled speculation that a (long-discussed) pardon for Barghouti may be in the works. Barghouti, 46 years old, represents a new generation of Palestinian leadership who commands the loyalty of radical youths to a degree Abbas never has. A former leader of the notorious al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Barghouti has “street cred” among Palestinians who believe they have no choice but to stand up to Israel through any means possible.

Suzanne speculates that this has the potential to be a “Nixon in China” moment: “For both the Israelis and the Palestinians it’s become clear that at this point, with hopes dashed so often, only tested, trusted hard-liners will be given a mandate to compromise.” Perhaps Sharon on one side and Barghouti on the other could be the pair of Nixons to make this happen?

I don’t have any real expertise of my own to bring to bear here, but it’s an interesting thought. Stay tuned.