THE PALESTINE PAPERS: Leaked memos expose treachery of Palestinian Authority, futility of US-brokered ‘peace process’
The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem. This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.
A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.
The documents — many of which will be published by the Guardian over the coming days — also reveal:
• The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
• How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state.
• The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.
• The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
• How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel’s 2008-9 war in Gaza.
As well as the annexation of all East Jerusalem settlements except Har Homa, the Palestine papers show PLO leaders privately suggested swapping part of the flashpoint East Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land elsewhere.
Most controversially, they also proposed a joint committee to take over the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City — the neuralgic issue that helped sink the Camp David talks in 2000 after Yasser Arafat refused to concede sovereignty around the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques.
The offers were made in 2008-9, in the wake of George Bush’s Annapolis conference, and were privately hailed by the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, as giving Israel “the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in history” in order to resolve the world’s most intractable conflict. Israeli leaders, backed by the US government, said the offers were inadequate.
Intensive efforts to revive talks by the Obama administration foundered last year over Israel‘s refusal to extend a 10-month partial freeze on settlement construction. Prospects are now uncertain amid increasing speculation that a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict is no longer attainable — and fears of a new war.
Many of the 1,600 leaked documents — drawn up by PA officials and lawyers working for the British-funded PLO negotiations support unit and include extensive verbatim transcripts of private meetings — have been independently authenticated by the Guardian and corroborated by former participants in the talks and intelligence and diplomatic sources. The Guardian’s coverage is supplemented by WikiLeaks cables, emanating from the US consulate in Jerusalem and embassy in Tel Aviv. Israeli officials also kept their own records of the talks, which may differ from the confidential Palestinian accounts.
The concession in May 2008 by Palestinian leaders to allow Israel to annex the settlements in East Jerusalem — including Gilo, a focus of controversy after Israel gave the go-ahead for 1,400 new homes — has never been made public.
All settlements built on territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 war are illegal under international law, but the Jerusalem homes are routinely described, and perceived, by Israel as municipal “neighborhoods”. Israeli governments have consistently sought to annex the largest settlements as part of a peace deal — and came close to doing so at Camp David.
Erekat told Israeli leaders in 2008: “This is the first time in Palestinian-Israeli history in which such a suggestion is officially made.” No such concession had been made at Camp David.
But the offer was rejected out of hand by Israel because it did not include a big settlement near the city Ma’ale Adumim as well as Har Homa and several others deeper in the West Bank, including Ariel. “We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands,” Israel’s then foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, told the Palestinians, “and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it”.
The overall impression that emerges from the documents, which stretch from 1999 to 2010, is of the weakness and growing desperation of PA leaders as failure to reach agreement or even halt all settlement temporarily undermines their credibility in relation to their Hamas rivals; the papers also reveal the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators and the often dismissive attitude of US politicians towards Palestinian representatives.
Last night Erekat said the minutes of the meetings were “a bunch of lies and half truths”. Qureia told AP that “many parts of the documents were fabricated, as part of the incitement against the … Palestinian leadership”.
However Palestinian former negotiator, Diana Buttu, called on Erekat to resign following the revelations. “Saeb must step down and if he doesn’t it will only serve to show just how out of touch and unrepresentative the negotiators are,” she said.
Palestinian and Israeli officials both point out that any position in negotiations is subject to the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and therefore is invalid without an overarching deal.
The above article can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/23/palestine-papers-expose-peace-concession
‘Papers reveal how Palestinian leaders gave up fight over refugees’The Guardian (UK); January 24, 2011
Palestinian negotiators privately agreed that only 10,000 refugees and their families, out of a total refugee population exceeding 5 million, could return to Israel as part of a peace settlement, leaked confidential documents reveal. PLO leaders also accepted Israel’s demand to define itself as an explicitly Jewish state, in sharp contrast to their public position.
The latest disclosures from thousands of pages of secret Palestinian records of more than a decade of failed peace talks, obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian, follow a day of shock and protests in the West Bank, where Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders angrily denounced the leaks as a “propaganda game”. The documents have already become the focus of controversy among Israelis and Palestinians, revealing the scale of official Palestinian concessions rejected by Israel, but also throwing light on the huge imbalance of power in a peace process widely seen to have run into the sand.
The latest documents to be released reveal:
• The then Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, repeatedly pressed in 2007-08 for the “transfer” of some of Israel’s own Arab citizens into a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal that would exchange Palestinian villages now in Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
• The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and other American officials refused to accept any Palestinian leadership other than that of Mahmoud Abbas and the prime minister, Salam Fayyad. The US “expects to see the same Palestinian faces”, one senior official explained, if it was to continue funding the PA.
• Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state under George Bush, suggested in 2008 Palestinian refugees could be resettled in South America. “Maybe we will be able to find countries that can contribute in kind,” she said. “Chile, Argentina, etc.”
• Livni told Palestinian negotiators in 2007 that she was against international law and insisted that it could not be included in terms of reference for the talks: “I was the minister of justice”, she said. “But I am against law — international law in particular.”
The scale of the compromise secretly agreed on refugees will be controversial among Palestinians who see the flight or expulsion of refugees when Israel was created in 1948 as their catastrophe (nakba) — while most Israelis regard the Palestinian right of return as incompatible with a democratic Jewish state.
The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is recorded telling the US Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, in February 2009: “On refugees, the deal is there.” In June 2009, he confirmed what the deal was to his own staff: “Olmert accepted 1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years.”
Abbas, who is himself a refugee, is also recorded arguing privately: “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million. That would mean the end of Israel.”
On the issue of accepting Israel as an explicitly Jewish state, Erekat privately told Israeli negotiators: “If you want to call your state the Jewish state of Israel you can call it what you want.” He told his staff privately that it was a “non-issue”.
But publicly PA leaders reject any ethnic or religious definition of Israel, and it is fiercely opposed by many of Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens, who see it as a threat to their own civil and national rights, particularly since there have been moves in Israel to introduce a loyalty oath along the same lines.
In several areas, Livni pressed for Arab citizens of Israel to be included in a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal, raising the controversial specter of “transfer”. In other words, shifting Palestinians to another state without their consent, a demand backed in its wholesale form by rightwing nationalists.
Livni explained privately that there are “some Palestinian villages located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta’a, Baqa al-Sharqiya and Baqa al-Gharbiya”. Earlier, she had made clear that such swaps also meant “the swap of the inhabitants”. But Palestinian negotiators rejected the proposal.
Tonight Livni’s spokesman said she had not discussed population transfers and insisted she had not criticized international law. In Ramallah on the West Bank today, al-Jazeera’s offices were taken over by a crowd of 250 security forces and protesters in response to the disclosures. Abbas said they were an intentional “mix-up”, while Erekat claimed they had been “taken out of context and contain lies”.
But senior PLO sources accepted privately that the documents were genuine.
The above article can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/24/papers-palestinian-leaders-refugees-fight?intcmp=239
Also see ‘Bearing out the betrayal’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20081124124524681
Also see ‘Sacking proves Fatah-Israel collusion’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20081028050245759
Also see ‘Israeli stooge Abbas gives away the farm’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20081013083137646
Also see ‘Zionist-run PA (along with Arab League and OIC) keeps UN Goldstone Report, flotilla probe in bureaucratic limbo’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20101102133320707
Also see ‘Why Hamas took Gaza (Dayton, Dahlan and the plot against the resistance), Pt. 1’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=2010111219565328
Also see ‘World’s only superpower admits failure to stop Israel’s illegal settlement drive’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20101218200719822Also see ‘Obama offers Israel free stealth fighters, UNSC vetoes, Jordan Valley for 90-day settlement freeze” here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20101127013253495
Also see ‘Zionist state comes out of Wikileaks debacle smelling like roses’ here: http://800pg.co.cc/geeklog//article.php?story=20101203223707519