Tariq Ali on `The Palestine Papers': Total capitulation

Mahmoud Abbas with US President George W. Bush and Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Red Sea Summit in Aqaba, Jordan, on June 4, 2003.

January 24, 2011 -- LRB Blog -- The "Palestine Papers" being published this week by al-Jazeera confirm in every detail what many Palestinians have suspected for a long time: their leaders have been collaborating in the most shameful fashion with Israel and the United States. Their grovelling is described in grim detail. The process, though few accepted it at the time, began with the much-trumpeted Oslo Accords, described by Edward Said in the London Review of Books at the time as a "Palestinian Versailles". Even he would have been taken aback by the sheer scale of what the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) leadership agreed to surrender: virtually everything except their own salaries. Their weaknesses, inadequacies and cravenness are now in the public domain.

Now we know that the capitulation was total, but still the Israeli overlords of the PLO refused to sign a deal and their friends in the press blamed the Palestinians for being too difficult. They wanted Palestine to be crushed before they would agree to underwrite a few moth-eaten protectorates that they would supervise indefinitely. They wanted Hamas destroyed. The PLO agreed. The recent assault on Gaza was carried out with the approval of [Palestinian Authority Presidet Mahmoud] Abbas and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, not to mention Washington and [the European Union]. The PLO sold out in a literal sense. They were bought with money and treated like servants. There is TV footage of Israel's Ehud Barak and US President Bill Clinton at Camp David playfully tugging at Yasser Arafat’s headgear to stop him leaving. All three are laughing. Many PLO supporters in Palestine must be weeping as they watch al-Jazeera and take in the scale of the betrayal and the utter cynicism of their leaders. Now we know why the Israel/US/EU nexus was so keen to disregard the outcome of the Palestinian elections and try to destroy Hamas militarily.

The two-state solution is now dead and buried by Israel and the PLO. Impossible for anyone (even the BBC) to pretend that there can be an independent Palestinian state. A long crapulent depression is bound to envelop occupied Palestine, but whether Israel likes it or not there will one day be a single state in the region, probably by the end of this century. That is the only possible solution, apart from genocide.

[This article first appeared at the LRB Blog.]

Electronic Intifada: Documents reveal PA offered Israel 'biggest Yerushalayim' in history

Leaked documents reveal the "charade" of the peace process between the PA and Israel. (Thaer Ganaim/MaanImages).

Januray 24, 2011 -- Electronic Intifada -- The Al Jazeera network has begun to release documents it secretly obtained that expose dramatic concessions made by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) to the Israeli government and US officials.

The leaked files, which Al Jazeera has dubbed "The Palestine Papers", contain more than 1600 internal documents related to the last decade of peace negotiations. The network has also shared the information with the Guardian newspaper in London.

"These documents -- memos, emails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations - date from 1999 to 2010", Al Jazeera stated in its introduction to the report ("Introducing the Palestine Papers", January 23, 2011).

On January 23, Al Jazeera released documents that prove the PA's willingness to concede areas of occupied East Jerusalem to the Israeli state. The Electronic Intifada's co-founder and executive director, Ali Abunimah, was given special access to the documents and helped analyse them for Al Jazeera.

Speaking from Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar, Abunimah said, "The cover has finally been blown on a 'peace process' where there has been no transparency, honesty or accountability to the Palestinian people by those who claimed to negotiate in their name. What saddened me most as I reviewed hundreds of documents was to see how Palestinian negotiators -- with no mandate from the Palestinian people -- viewed the basic rights and interests of the Palestinian people not as objectives to be secured, but as obstacles to be fudged or mere bargaining chips to be frittered away to secure a 'deal' that could save the skins of the Palestinian Authority at almost any price."

Among Al Jazeera's significant revelations are major offers by the PA to Israel in the context of settlements in East Jerusalem, including major portions of the Old City that adjoin the Haram al-Sharif (the Dome of the Rock, the second-holiest site in Islam) ("'The biggest Yerushalayim'", January 23, 2011).

During a January 2010 meeting with David Hale, advisor to US President Obama, PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted in the documents leak saying that in his plan, Israel would be given "the biggest Yerushalaim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in Jewish history".

Even as Israeli leaders repeated their unwillingness to negotiate on the issue of Jerusalem, Al Jazeera reveals, Palestinian Authority officials kept offering concessions on areas in the city, without demanding Israeli concessions in return.

In the meeting with Hale, Erekat said: "Israelis want the two-state solution but they don't trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarized state ... what more can I give?"

PA leaders also proposed "unprecedented" land swaps with the Israeli government, Al Jazeera revealed.

In 2008, then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas after the PA offered to allow the Israel state to annex most of the East Jerusalem settlements without demanding concessions in return. Olmert reportedly showed Abbas a map of the newly proposed swaps, which outlined Israel's plan to annex more than 10 per cent of the West Bank.

This map included the annexation of major settlement blocs such as Maale Addumim and Ariel "in exchange for sparsely populated farmland along the Gaza Strip and the West Bank", Al Jazeera stated ("The 'napkin map' revealed", January 23, 2011).

"Abbas was not allowed to keep a copy of the map, and so the 73-year-old Palestinian president had to sketch a copy by hand on a napkin", the network added.

According to Al Jazeera, the Palestinian negotiations team "did not explicitly endorse or reject the Olmert offer ... it did warn that continued settlement growth [particularly in East Jerusalem] would make any agreement 'much more difficult'".

In an article on the Al Jazeera English website, Daud Abdallah, director of media research institution Middle East Monitor, reported that the PA was willing to "disown parts of the besieged Arab neighborhoods in the city" ("'Shocking revelations' on Jerusalem", January 23, 2011).

"Worse still", Abdallah wrote, "Saeb Erekat ... displayed clear 'flexibility' regarding the sovereignty on the Haram al-Sharif".

Al Jazeera revealed that Erekat offered "creative" suggestions on the legal status of the Old City and Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem, including the Haram al-Sharif. In mid-October, 2009, Erekat told Hale and US State Department legal adviser Jonathan Schwartz, "Even the Old City can be worked out except for the Haram and what they call Temple Mount. There you need the creativity of people like me ..."

Abunimah, who will provide on-air analysis about the documents on Al Jazeera English during four days of coverage, said that, "What we can discern immediately from these documents is that the US-brokered negotiations, especially under the Obama administration, can never lead to the restoration of Palestinian rights and that the two-state solution is basically dead. In the long term, we will have to ask how the peace process charade, revealed in these papers, was allowed to continue for so long as Israel continued its relentless colonisation of Palestinian land and the Palestinian Authority that was supposed to be a step on the road to freedom become a sophisticated tool of continued Israeli occupation." 

More "Palestine Papers" documents will be released in the coming days.

Later this week, the network said it will expose details about compromises the PA has considered regarding the Palestinian refugees' right of return, as well as detailed information on the "security cooperation" plans between the PA and Israel.

Additionally, documents including "private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone report [on the 2008-09 Israeli assault on Gaza] was being discussed at the United Nations" will be released, Al Jazeera stated.

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

The entire Palestine Papers archive is being made available online on the Al Jazeera English website at http://english.aljazeera.net/palestinepapers/.

Electronic Intifada coverage of 'The Palestine Papers'

Electronic Intifada, January 26, 2011

Details on the growing security cooperation between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, the United States and the United Kingdom were revealed yesterday, the third day of Al Jazeera network's release of more than 1600 internal documents and secret correspondence from the last decade of negotiations between the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority and the United States.


By Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada, January 25, 2011

For more than a decade, since the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000, the mantra of Israeli politics has been the same: "There is no Palestinian partner for peace." This week, the first of hundreds of leaked confidential Palestinian documents confirmed the suspicions of a growing number of observers that the rejectionists in the peace process are to be found on the Israeli, not Palestinian, side.


Electronic Intifada, January 25, 2011

Al Jazeera has released more leaked documents related to several "core issues", including the Palestinian refugees' right of return, as part of the Palestine Papers exposé.


By Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada, 1 February 2011

With the 18-year-long Middle East peace process finally pronounced dead, is the Palestinian Authority finished too? That is the question being asked by Palestinians in the wake of a week of damaging revelations that Palestinian negotiators secretly made major concessions to Israel in talks on Jerusalem, refugees and borders. Jonathan Cook analyses.