Secret ‘Palestine Papers’ Reveal Monumental Palestinian Concessions Rejected by Israel
Confidential documents obtained by the Qatar-based Arabic language news network al-Jazeera reveal that Palestinian negotiators secretly offered sweeping concessions to Israel, including an agreement to cede nearly all of occupied East Jerusalem to the Jewish state. Nearly 1,700 files covering an 11-year period from 1999 to 2010 were leaked by an unnamed source or sources to al-Jazeera, which then shared them with Britain’s Guardian. That newspaper says it has verified the authenticity of most of the documents.
According to the leaked documents, known as the Palestine Papers, Palestinian negotiators agreed in May 2008 to allow Israel to annex all East Jerusalem settlements except for one. The Jewish settlements were illegally built on Palestinian land seized during the 1967 war. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat offered Israel “the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in history.” “This is the first time in Palestinian-Israeli history in which such a suggestion is officially made,” Erekat said.
But Israel, backed by the United States, almost immediately rejected the offer because it did not include the settlement of Har Homa and others in the West Bank, including Ariel. “We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands,” Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni responded, “and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it.”
The Palestinians also proposed a joint committee that would administer the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Palestinians also offered stunning concessions on the right of return, perhaps the most contentious core issue of the Palestinian cause. During the formation of Israel in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly removed from their homes. This Jewish crime of ethnic cleansing, called the Nakba (catastrophe) by Palestinians, involved the displacement of three quarters of a million people.
Entire villages were erased from the map. In at least one case Jews massacred more than a hundred Palestinians, including women and children. Despite this horror, and despite the fact that Palestinian leaders have always held that right of return is a non-negotiable requisite of any potential peace deal with Israel, the newly leaked documents show that Palestinian negotiators privately accepted a shockingly inadequate token offer of 1,000 refugees to return each year for ten years. Many Palestinian people are also angered that Saeb Erekat is recorded as referring to refugee rights as a “bargaining chip.”
Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, himself a Nakba refugee, also privately conceded that a large-scale return of Palestinian refugees was untenable. In a March 2009 meeting he said “it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million [refugees]. That would mean the end of Israel.” Still, the leaked documents reveal that Palestinian leaders chafed at an American plan to re-settle refugees in Argentina and Chile, where some 200,000 Palestinians now call home.
Also revealed, according to The Guardian:
-Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred from Israel to whatever new Palestinian state emerged from negotiations.
-Israeli security forces worked “intimately” with the Palestinian authority.
-British intelligence played a crucial role in crafting a secret plan to destroy Hamas.
-Palestinian Authority leaders were privately tipped off about Israel’s imminent invasion of Gaza in December 2008.
The leaked documents have sent shock waves through the region. Angry crowds stormed al-Jazeera’s West Bank headquarters in Ramallah yesterday. Protesters vandalized the building, smashing windows and chanting “al-Jazeera is a Zionist channel!” Indeed, many skeptical Palestinians believe the leak is plot to weaken the already diminished power of President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Some see the hand of the Qatari government– al-Jazeera is based in Qatar and the tiny Gulf emirate funds the station– in the leak. The Palestinian Authority is accusing Qatar of plotting against them. As much as Arab states like to feign sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians, they are not widely liked in the region and most countries have done little to help their cause.
More leaked documents are expected to be released in the near future.
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