Al Jazeera’s ground-breaking scoop provides definitive confirmation of perfidy on the part of unrepresentative Palestinian ‘negotiators’ and of the falsity of the Israeli position. The Palestine Papers reveal that Israel shunned way more than generous settlement offers through which Palestinian leaders betrayed their people.
The Palestinian Authority proposed an unprecedented land swap to the Israeli government, offering to annex virtually all of the illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.
Not only did the Israeli government offer no concessions in return, but – as The Palestine Papers now reveal – it responded with an even more aggressive land swap: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert wanted to annex more than 10% of the West Bank (including the major settlements in Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and elsewhere), in exchange for sparsely-populated farmland along the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The Israeli offer is documented in a Palestinian rendition of what’s colloquially called “the napkin map,” a rendering of which is revealed for the first time in The Palestine Papers.
Olmert met in mid-2008 with Mahmoud Abbas and showed him a map of the proposed swaps. 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 PA, in other words, never even really negotiated the issue; their representatives gave away almost everything to the Israelis, without pressuring them for concessions or compromise. Erekat seemed to realise this – perhaps belatedly – in a January 2010 meeting with [US president Barack] Obama’s adviser David Hale.
Erekat: 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, demilitarised state… what more can I give?
There is, in other words, seemingly no mutually acceptable policy for Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, and other major West Bank settlements within a two-state solution – a fact the Bush administration was willing to acknowledge in July 2008.
Rice: I don’t think that any Israeli leader is going to cede Ma’ale Adumim.
Qurei: Or any Palestinian leader.
Rice: Then you won’t have a state!
Rice may prove to be correct: Two and a half years later, the parties are no closer to a solution on settlements, and the Israeli government may be gearing up to issue a “massive” new round of housing permits for illegal settlers in the West Bank.
Along with Al Jazeera, the Guardian also intends publishing the documents which it says show
* 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.
Desperately, the beleaguered Palestinian negotiators have attempted to ameliorate their irretrievable, exposed position:
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.
The current Likud platform, recommended reading, evidences the fact that Israel under Nutanyahoo has no intention of ceding a Palestinian state despite any of his stern blither – and indeed why relinquish a inch when talk of peace talks can delay resolution indefinitely, creating a facade that ‘something’ is being done, while Israel continues to steal more Palestinian land and oppress Palestinians, with the unmitigated support of its supine neocoloniser, the US. Israel’s leaders’ whines about “peace and security” echoed by its US consorts are always a cover for ziofascist expansionism and ethnic cleansing.
Even the lack of a US veto of the forthcoming UN Security Council Resolution to censure settlement growth is unlikely to restrain the avaricious Israelis, for what punishment has been visited on them by western governments for their contravention of the previous 28 UNSC resolutions of which they are in breach?
Ali Abunimah, who is analysing the Palestine Papers for Al Jazeera and will be commenting on them further this week spells out the bottom line in Electronic Intifada:
“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.”
“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 colonization 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.”
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.
Tariq is unrealistic here, I think – by demographic pressures alone, one state would come about much sooner than the end of this century.
Thus, once again, the battle comes down to a principled struggle for equal rights for all – the end of Israeli apartheid and jewish ethnonationalist hegemony in historic Palestine. Given the Palestine Papers’ affirmation of Israel’s bad faith in ‘peace’ negotiations and complicity of the US with Israel’s intransigence, the rationale for boycotts, divestments and sanctions of Israel is affirmed once again.
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