The Palestine papers By Matthew Weaver

24 January, 2011 | 9.27am — The Guardian for live updates

Mustafa Barghouti, an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the papers showed that the Israeli don’t want a two-state solution despite their support for it in public. He gave his reaction to my colleague Harriet Sherwood.

Asked if Erekat should resign, he said: “The whole Oslo process has failed, it’s not about one or two or three individual negotiators.”

“The main thing is that regardless of how flexible the negotiators are and how many concessions are offered, it makes no difference because Israel does not want a two state solution. All this flexibility is in vain.

“The whole approach has to be changed. What we need today is a unified leadership with a strategy that takes into consideration nothing will change unless the balance of power changes.”

Those who have built hopes on negotiations alone would be disappointed, he said. Palestinians needed to regain democracy.

The respected Middle East analyst Juan Cole, said the consequences of publishing the papers are grim for Fatah, the PLO and Saeb Erekat.

The documents could well destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization, a coalition of parties that includes Fatah, which is led by Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Among the politicians who comes off the worst in these documents is Saeb Erekat. The Palestinian Authority is revealed as feeble as a kitten. Like a a spurned suitor, Erekat kept offering the Israelis more and more, and they kept rejecting his overtures…

I’m not sure that Fatah can survive being discredited to this extent. Nor, likely, can the American farce of a ‘peace process’ or a ‘two-state solution.’

A spokesman for the former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmbert, has confirmed that a deal was almost reached with the Palestinians in 2008, according to the Jerusalem Post.

It involved allow the return of 5,000 Palestinian refugees he told Army Radio.

He confirmed that Olmert had agreed to a proposal that would have seen 1,000 Palestinain refugees given the approval to return to Israel over a space of five years. This would have resulted in a total of 5,000 refugees whose entrance into Israel would have been based on certain criteria and humanitarian grounds.

Gilead Sher, a former Israel lead negotiation and chief of staff to Ehud Barak’s chief of staff, insists that the peace process is not dead.

Writing on CiF he suggests the papers show much both sides have invested in a deal.

The two-state solution is not only in the interest of Israel: it is clearly in the interest of the United States, Europe and the moderate Arab world to enhance global peace and stability.

The Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has denied the negotiators were duplicitous

Mahmoud Abbas Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

“We don’t hide anything from our Arab brothers,” he told editors of Egyptian newspapers in Cairo, according to the Jerusalem Post. “We have been briefing our Arab brothers about all our activities with the Israelis and Americans.”

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas spokesman, said the papers showed that Palestinians had been “betrayed” by negotiators.


Speaking to al-Jazeera, from Beirut, he said: “This leadership is not honest. They have no credibility to negotiate. It’s is clear from these documents that they have no authorisation from their own people to negotiate on their behalf.”

Hamdam said the papers confirmed that the peace process was dead.

He accused Saeb Erekat and his colleagues of “selling out” the Palestinian people.

“They were selling parts of East Jerusalem when they were saying they were committed to East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state,” he said.

“They were negotiating for what the Israelis would accepts for what the Americans may support, not what the Palestinians are looking for. This is why they betrayed their own people.”

Yossi Sarid, a former member of the Knesset and liberal commentator, said that Palestinian moderation is more difficult for Israel to deal with than extremism.

Speaking to my colleague Harriet Sherwood, Sarid said:

The principle for the Israeli government is very simple. If the Palestinian leadership is more moderate, it is more dangerous, more threatening.

Moderation is the Israeli government’s number one enemy. If we deal with radicals, it’s very simple – you don’t have to negotiate, reconcile or make any concessions.

If we have to deal with moderate respectable people like Abu Mazen, Salam Fayyad and Saeb Erekat, we are in trouble. We don’t like to make concessions.

As far as the documents themselves are concerned – it’s up to them. I’m not a Palestinian and I haven’t been elected by the Palestinian people. It’s up to them to decide if it’s right to make these concessions.

Harriet Sherwood, our Jerusalem correspondent, has been tracking the reaction, from both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Harriet Sherwood.

Both Palestinian and Israeli officials were tightlipped about the documents until they had had a chance to absorb the contents.

However, Yasser Abd Rabbo, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee and former negotiator, is giving a press conference in Ramallah at 10am GMT. He will present the PLO position on the papers.

In Gaza, the Palestine Papers were getting a lot of play on Al Aqsa TV and on Hamas websites, although there has been no statement from Hamas officials yet.

Most of the Israeli dailies picked up the story late last night, running front page news stories focussing on the PA’s willingness to concede Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. “PA embarrassed” was the lead headline in Maariv.

Tzipi Livni was unusual in putting out a statement late last night. She said she would “maintain the discretion of the negotiations” in the belief they resume and be successful. “We do not intend to comment on internal records or Palestinian interpretations, whether they are correct or not,” her office said.

Einat Wilf, a member of the Knesset for the newly-formed Independence party, said: “Rather than backing down and trying to distance themselves from the proposals exposed in the recent al-Jazeera leaks, the Palestinian leadership should use this opportunity to courageously prepare Palestinians for the inevitable compromises that will need to be made on any future peace agreement with Israel.”

Saeb Erekat told al-Jazeera last night: “This is a theatre. This is part of a campaign targeting President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA at a time when we are going to the UN Security Council regarding the settlements.”

The US says it remains committed to a two-state solution.

Responding to the papers on Twitter, State department, spokesman Philip Crowley said:

The US remains focused on a two-state solution and will continue to work with the parties to narrow existing differences on core issues.

Earlier he said the US was reviewing the documents.

The U.S. government is reviewing the alleged Palestinian documents released by #Al-Jazeera today. We cannot vouch for their veracity.less than a minute ago via web

The reaction to the publication of more than 1,600 secret documents on the peace process has been swift and harsh.

The Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, who is recorded in the papers offering the Israelis the “biggest Yerushalayim in history” questioned their veracity.

He dismissed them as a “bunch of lies”. Similarly Ahmed Qureia, another lead negotiator, said they were “fabricated”.

But a former colleague Diana Buttu called on Erekat to resign, and said the concessions offered were “shocking”.

Elsewhere commentators say the publications of the papers marks the end of an era in Middle East peace negotiations. Writing on Twitter Blake Hounshell, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, said: “I think today may be remembered as the day the two-state solution died #palestinepapers.”

Global Voices tracks some of the other initial reaction on Twitter

Writing in the Guardian, former PLO representative, Karma Nabulsi says the leak “destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process”.

A Guardian leaders on papers says no one comes out of them well.

It is hard to tell who appears worst: the Palestinian leaders, who are weak, craven and eager to shower their counterparts with compliments; the Israelis, who are polite in word but contemptuous in deed; or the Americans, whose neutrality consists of bullying the weak and holding the hand of the strong.

Seumas Milne and Ian Black, who have done most of the reporting on the papers, sum up what they reveal:

The overall impression that emerges from the documents, which stretch from 1999 to 2010, is of the weakness and growing desperation of PA leaders as failure to reach agreement or even halt all settlement temporarily undermines their credibility in relation to their Hamas rivals; the papers also reveal the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators and the often dismissive attitude of US politicians towards Palestinian representatives.

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