Al-Jazeera Unleashes The Palestine Papers

From Al Jazeera:

Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents – memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations – date from 1999 to 2010.

The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials.

The Guardian, who is also publishing the “Palestine Papers” along with extensive analysis, makes it clear that the revelation of these documents gives stunning insight into the workings of the so-called 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…

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 neighbourhood 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.

As you might expect, commentary abounds throughout the blogosphere:

Diana Buttu (former member of the Palestinian negotiating team):

It highlights to me that we’ll never be able to get anything from negotiations. You’ve got one party that’s incredibly powerful and another party that’s incredibly weak and my own experience is that we got nowhere during negotiations. I’ve no reason to believe it’s any different now, 18 years after the peace process started. The Israelis are stronger than they were 18 years ago and the Palestinians are weaker. It is clear that there is a rising level of desperation [by Palestinian negotiators] and complete lack of any connection to the reality Palestinians face.

Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf:

…(The) release of the Palestinian offers during the 2008 talks serves as proof that Israel in fact had a partner for peace on the Palestinian side. Actually, the question from now on will be whether Israel itself is a partner for an agreement. Furthermore, after the steps Palestinian and Israeli negotiators took towards each other in previous rounds of talks, the current Israeli offers, such as a temporary state on half of the West Bank’s territory, will appear cynical and unrealistic.

Richard L. Grenier (ex-CIA official):

The overwhelming conclusion one draws from this record is that the process for a two-state solution is essentially over, that the history of the peace process is one of abject failure for all concerned. The Palestinian participants, having lost the most, will likely suffer most. But I can only come away with the passionately held belief that these people deserved better.

Media Matters’ MJ Rosenberg:

The bottom line is that, despite the assurances it gave to the Palestinian people that it was driving a hard bargain with the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority accepted Israel’s position on every key point: borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees.

On no major issue did the PA hold the line. None.

The Palestinians offered Israel everything Israel wants and Israel still said “no” with the backing of the United States.

Al Jazeera promises to release more documents in the coming days. This is certainly one to follow…

6 thoughts on “Al-Jazeera Unleashes The Palestine Papers

  1. Shai Gluskin

    I don’t quite understand all the “piling-on” about the weakness of Abbas er al. Mj Rosenberg said the PA caved in on every point.

    However. Aluf Benn at Ha’aretz wrote ( wrote that Israeli negotiators since Oslo had assumed that Palestinian negotiators would trade Israeli annexation of Ma’ale Adumin for the evacuation of Ariel, but that in 2008 the PA insisted on the evacuation of both.

  2. Thomas Bauer

    Who lost? who wins? Superficially, the only winner seems to be Hamas, who never wanted to make concessions to Israel for Peace. The losers are numerous:
    The PA – who begged for Peace and gave up everything, but did not get Peace;
    Israel – who had a serious partner, and lost him;
    The US – who supported Israel – against Peace;
    The EU – who pays the salaries of the PA, and should have known the negotiations;

    But there is one positive idea: if all that what has offered the PA for Peace was insufficient, then this possibly will convince other countries – like the EU, like the South-American countries – to build up pressure on Israel to be a peaceful country, and to treat Palestinians as a people who have the right for their country, and to treat Palestinians as their equals.

    I think the Peace process has been killed – but it was dead already before, and only this is the big news. And as this is now known, it might help to start a new process for Peace deserving this label. I hope – and pray – for this. The alternative would be more “Hate for the West” (J. Ziegler), and more innocent people who will suffer and who will be killed.

    1. Shirin

      Hamas, who never wanted to make concessions to Israel for Peace.

      Thomas Bauer, while I agree with much of what you said, and appreciate your sentiments a great deal, I suggest that you are lacking some very critical information about Hamas if you can make such a statement. In fact, Hamas leaders have repeatedly expressed their willingness to accept Israel within the Green Line, and a Palestinian state in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. That is all the concession any Palestinian should be required to make.

      Israel – who had a serious partner, and lost him

      It is, of course, not Israel, but the Palestinians who have never had a partner for peace. If that was not obvious before, it should be obvious now.

      I think the Peace process has been killed – but it was dead already before…

      The “peace process”, going all the way back to Oslo, was never anything but a cruel sham. It was a way to keep the Palestinians pacified by false hope while Israel escalated its confiscation and colonization. Hanan Ashrawi’s book This Side of Peace is an eye-opener on aspects of what went on around Oslo that are not generally publicized.

  3. boris furman

    This is part of what Elliot Abrams had to say on the released papers. “Third, what some newspapers are calling “offers” or “agreements” made in the 2007-2008 negotiations are far less than that–are in fact most often preliminary probes or efforts to smoke out the other side. The Israelis and Palestinians never reached an agreement and in many areas, as the papers so far published show, were very far apart.”
    Jordan’s link is worth reading.
    Brant, the release of these papers presents us, the public, with some new information about Israeli Palestinian negotiations. I am interested in what they tell us about the prospects for peace. I know what you think about the Israeli role in the peace process. It’s not helpful to me that you cite only commentators that agree with your opinions. I’d like to feel that you are considering other viewpoints.


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