Israel/Palestine

The Palestine Papers

According to Jonathan Freedland, writing in the Guardian: “Now we know.Israel had a peace partner.”

Information is coming thick and fast, both in the Guardian and also via Al Jazeera of what is being dubbed “The Palestine Papers,” a whole series of leaked papers about the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Freedland puts it as follows:

Who will be most damaged by this extraordinary glimpse into the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Perhaps the first casualty will be Palestinian national pride, their collective sense of dignity in adversity badly wounded by the papers revealed today.

Many on the Palestinian streets will recoil to read not just the concessions offered by their representatives – starting with the yielding of those parts of East Jerusalem settled by Israeli Jews – but the language in which those concessions were made.

To hear their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, tell the Israelis that the Palestinians are ready to concede “the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history” – even using the Hebrew word for the city – will strike many as an act of humiliation.

Referring to Ariel Sharon as a “friend” will offend those Palestinians who still revile the former prime minister as the “Butcher of Beirut” for his role in the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Telling Tzipi Livni, Israel’s then foreign minister, on the eve of national elections “I would vote for you” will strike many Palestinians as grovelling of a shameful kind.

It is this tone which will stick in the throat just as much as the substantive concessions on land or, as the Guardian will reveal in coming days, the intimate level of secret co-operation with Israeli security forces or readiness of Palestinian negotiators to give way on the highly charged question of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Of course it should be said that this cache of papers is not exhaustive and may have been leaked selectively; other documents might provide a rather different impression. Nevertheless, these texts will do enormous damage to the standing of the Palestinian Authority and to the Fatah party that leads it. Erekat himself may never recover his credibility.

It is his Freedland’s next sentence that is the one that we should all ponder:

But something even more profound is at stake: these documents could discredit among Palestinians the very notion of negotiation with Israel and the two-state solution that underpins it.

As I write and while the story is breaking, Twitter,as would be expected, is going crazy. The hashtag seems to be #PalestinePapers for those who wish to follow this story.

George Galloway has a much retweeted message: “The shame on the ‘negotiators’ (collaborators) who offered this will never be eradicated.”

An early tweet  from David Aaronovitch: “May strengthen a weakening Hamas w/o helping Israeli pro-peace movement.”

Martin Bright urges caution: “Very important not to draw the conclusion from #palestinepapers that Israel does not want peace.” He adds: “Israel will see this as a hostile act from Guardian/al-Jazeera nexus and not as journalism.”

No doubt this story will continue to develop….

Update

From the Jerusalem Post:

A senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah on Sunday strongly condemned the Al-Jazeera TV network for publishing hundreds of documents concerning the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.

“Al-Jazeera has declared war on the Palestinians,” the official told The Jerusalem Post. “This station serves the interests of the enemies of the Palestinians.”….

[PLO Chief Negotiator Saeb] Erekat … denied that the PA had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said that when he was asked by Israel to accept this demand, he replied that it was tantamount to asking a Palestinian to join the Zionist movement.

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