6:29 Ali Abunimah writes:
One of the more astonishing revelations in The Palestine Papers — detailed records and minutes of the Middle East peace process leaked to Al Jazeera — is that the administration of US President Barack Obama effectively repudiated the Road Map, which has formed the basis of the “peace process” since 2003. In doing so it has backed away even from commitments made by the George W. Bush administration and blown an irreparable hole in the already threadbare “two-state solution.”
But even worse, the US position perhaps unwittingly opens the door to dangerous Israeli ambitions to transfer — or ethnically cleanse — non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel in order to create an ethnically pure “Jewish state.”
Alastair Crooke writes:
Al Jazeera’s release of The Palestine Papers helps to make clear why there is no Palestinian state. It illuminates a key flaw in Palestinian and western understanding of Israeli thinking. It is this flaw which helps explain why a state has failed to emerge – despite the many, many opportunities in the last nineteen years in which it could have.
The root premise has been, since the outset of the ‘process’, that Israel was intent on having and maintaining a Jewish ‘majority’ within Israel, and that with time – and a growing Palestinian population – Israel would have to acquiesce to a Palestinian state simply to maintain its Jewish majority: that is, by losing Palestinians into their own state, Israel’s Jewish majority could be conserved – and by these means, and only by such means, finally could such a majority be conserved.
It is a very compelling narrative. It suggested that a Palestinian state was inevitable: Palestinians simply had to ‘prove’ their readiness to assume statehood to Israel – and a state would be given them.
Professor Mushtaq Khan from London’s School of Oriental and African Studies argued in a recent talk that it was precisely this type of analysis that lay behind Fatah’s approach to Oslo. It explains, he argues, why the Palestinian leadership at this time never made real attempts to create serious bargaining power vis-à-vis Israel: the leadership simply did not think it necessary. They saw their task to be ‘confidence building’ with the Israelis.
“The Obama way”:
4.29: At a moment when the success of the Tunisian revolution is sending a message across the region about the effectiveness of people’s power and arousing renewed hope for the restoration of lost dignity, the image of Palestinian negotiators ingratiating themselves before Israeli ministers, strikes a very discordant note.
When Ahmed Qurei, a former Palestinian prime minister, told Israel’s foreign minister Tzipi Livni that, “I would vote for you,” he might have been joking, but such a fawning expression of admiration for a minister who so strongly supported the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza, exposes the Palestinian leadership in the worst possible light.
3.30: Mark Perry and Ali Abunimah describe how the Obama administration, contrary the image it presented as being willing to put pressure on the Netanyahu government, has in fact never swerved from the role of acting as “Israel’s lawyer”:
A series of six key documents dating from February of 2009 – a core element of the confidential memos, monographs and meeting notes leaked to Al Jazeera as part of The Palestine Papers – show that George Mitchell and his coordinating team, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have consistently pressured Palestinian negotiators (and in particular chief negotiator Saeb Erekat) to accept Israeli demands on a host of core negotiating issues.
In addition, the documents show that the United States has been willing to ignore and even abandon key agreements and principles that, in years past, it insisted both parties follow. The evidence for this, in the documents, is compelling – even overwhelming. It explodes the idea that the Obama administration ever even attempted to pull the United States off a doomed course.
The evidence that America remains Israel’s lawyer emerges first in the account of a February 27, 2009 meeting between Mitchell and key members of his team, with Saeb Erekat (and a top assistant) at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.
3.08: Al Jazeera reveals Israeli plans for the expulsion of Israel’s Arab population:
During several 2008 meetings with Palestinian negotiators, Livni proposed annexing Arab villages to the future Palestinian state, forcing tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs to choose between their citizenship and their land.
“The US position on borders perhaps unwittingly opens the door to dangerous Israeli ambitions to transfer — or ethnically cleanse — non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel in order to create an ethnically pure ‘Jewish state.’”
Her clearest language came on June 21, 2008, when she told senior Palestinian negotiators Ahmed Qurei and Saeb Erekat that their land swaps should include Israeli Arab villages. Udi Dekel, a top adviser to the then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, rattled off a list of villages that would be annexed to Palestine.
Livni: We have this problem with Raja [Ghajar] in Lebanon. Terje Larsen put the blue line to cut the village in two. [This needs to be addressed.] We decided not to cut the village. It was a mistake. The problem now, those living on Lebanese soil are Israeli citizens.
Dekel: Barka, Barta il Sharqiya, Barta il [Garbiya], Betil, Beit Safafa…
Qurei: This will be difficult. All Arabs in Israel will be against us.
Becker: We will need to address it somehow. Divided. All Palestinian. All Israeli.
Two months earlier, in another meeting with Qurei and Erekat, Livni herself mentioned the same villages, describing them – their status in the state of Israel – as a problem in need of resolution.
Livni: Let us be fair. You referred to 1967 line. We have not talked about Jerusalem yet. There are some Palestinian villages that are located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta’a, Baqa al-Sharqiyeh and Baqa al-Gharbiyyeh.
Livni’s choice of words is striking. Beit Safafa, Barta’a and Baqa al-Gharbiyya all sit at least partly on the Israeli side of the Green Line; their inhabitants carry Israeli passports, pay taxes to the Israeli government, and overwhelmingly self-identify as Israelis.
But Livni describes them as Palestinians – and suggests that they do not belong in the state of Israel.
2.19: It has long been understood that a negotiated agreement between Israelis and Palestinians would involve so-called “land swaps” through which some of the occupied territory outside Israel’s 1967 borders on which Jewish settlements have been constructed would become part of Israel, in exchange for areas of land within the ’67 borders that would become part of the new Palestinian state.
The following exchange between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators during a meeting held on March 12, 2008, makes it clear that the Israelis do not even recognize the existence of the 1967 line. Keep in mind that these were negotiators representing the so-called moderate government of Ehud Olmert.
The following Israeli [I] and Palestinian [P] negotiators attended the meeting: Israeli: Udi Dekel [UD] and Dani Tirza [DT]; Palestinian: Dr. Samih Al-Abed [SA], Khaled Elgindy [KE], Nizar Farsakh [NF].
Udi Dekel [I]: Now, about today’s meeting, I don’t know what Abu Alaa and [Tzipi] Livni agreed but, as I understand it, we need to agree on a common language when it comes to territory and borders. From your side, I know there was discussion of percentages, or areas (in sq. km)… In the previous two meetings with Abu Alaa and Livni, we started to explain all the considerations of what we mean when we talk of territory and borders.
SA [P]: You are jumping directly into discussing areas. We need to discuss parameters or guidelines. You spoke of sq. km, but we already have a starting point, which is 1967. We just need to have all the maps. This is what we need for a breakthrough. We must have a common language, agree on common maps and data, and then we can have a discussion about the issues.
UD [I]: As you know, our guiding principles are UNSC Res. 242, the need for boundaries that can provide security for Israel, and we’re talking about the situation on the ground, as per Pres. Bush’s letter.
SA [P]: Do you mean the situation as it was then, or now?
UD [I]: Reality now… But we’re not going to argue. We can’t change reality on the ground. We don’t see the 1967 border as a reference, first because we don’t even know exactly where the line is.
SA [P]: We have all the maps that were signed by you.
UD [I]: But that wasn’t exactly the line on the ground.
SA [P]: If not the 1967 line, then what is your reference?
UD [I]: We said already, the situation on the ground.
SA [P]: The wall?
UD [I]: The security fence is not a border. Unfortunately, it is needed for security. Every week we intercept 3 to 4 suicide bombers. As we’ve said before, the fence is not a border and can be moved like we did with Lebanon.
NF [P]: What is your frame of reference?
UD [I]: We’re talking about blocs of settlements—not far in the West Bank, but close to the area we are talking about—are to be part of Israel. In Oslo we used the West Bank outline map.
DT [I]: It is the West Bank outline map, in which under our law Israeli military law is applied.
SA [P]: This is your law. In our law, the line is 1967.
DT [I]: Based on which maps? There is no…
SA [P]: This is the standard we’ve worked from, from Oslo to Taba… we are not going to discuss any other line. If we’re going to waste time this is something else.
UD [I]: This is your opinion, but not our opinion. It is very difficult to locate the exact line of the situation that existed on 4 June 1967.
1.54: This is one of those days when a lot of American journalists must know what it felt like being a native journalist in the Soviet Union — never allowed to swerve from the official line. At the Los Angeles Times, Edmund Sanders yawns: “The documents so far haven’t revealed anything that someone moderately familiar with the Mideast hasn’t already heard.”
12.19: Amjad Atallah suggests that the release of the Palestine Papers “may have the same emotive impact among Palestinians that the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi had in Tunisia” — another event in which Al Jazeera‘s groundbreaking news coverage played a key role.
WikiLeaks’ data dump of U.S. diplomatic records; the demonstrations in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, and Yemen; and Hezbollah’s success in Lebanon have created an atmosphere of empowerment among a normally dispirited Arab public. Change is no longer impossible — and the United States no longer needs to be the agent of change.
This means there may be more exhibitions of “people power” with unpredictable consequences. The Arab authoritarian systems (most with the support of the U.S. government) are ill-equipped to deal positively with this type of demand for change.
Different forces in the region will now begin to see how they can take advantage for good or bad from this new reality. Unfortunately, if the United States stays true to form, we’ll simply struggle to see whether we can maintain the status quo.
In other words, President Obama is likely to yet again act as an obstacle, not an instrument of change in the world.
11.59: Noam Sheizaf assesses the effect of the Palestine Papers on the Israeli side.
Prime Minister Netanyahu will probably not suffer any damage on the home front, at least in the short term. Netanyahu might even use the papers to claim that his government’s construction projects in occupied East Jerusalem pose no threat to the peace process, since the Palestinians have already agreed to give up most of the Jewish neighborhoods in this part of the city.
The Israeli government would also benefit from a renewal of the internal war on the Palestinian side. For years, Israel has tried (and for the most part, succeeded) to break Palestinian society into sub-groups with different political interests and agendas. When those groups fight each other, the Palestinian cause suffers.
Yet from a wider perspective, the release of the Palestinian offers during the 2008 talks serves as proof that Israel in fact had a partner for peace on the Palestinian side. Actually, the question from now on will be whether Israel itself is a partner for an agreement. Furthermore, after the steps Palestinian and Israeli negotiators took towards each other in previous rounds of talks, the current Israeli offers, such as a temporary state on half of the West Bank’s territory, will appear cynical and unrealistic.
For years, Israel has used the peace process as a way to hold back international pressure on the Palestinian issue. It will be harder to do so from now on. This will be Netanyahu’s greatest problem.
11.47: Rashid Khalidi on Democracy Now!: Leaked “Palestine Papers” underscore weakness of Palestinian Authority, rejectionism of Israel and U.S.
“The biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history”
11.35: In the Financial Times [registration required], Nadia Hijab writes:
When, some 30 years on, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat returned from the failed Camp David summit in 2000, he was excoriated by the US and Europe for rejecting Israel’s “generous offer”. By contrast, many Palestinians heaved a sigh of relief that Mr Arafat had refused to sign an agreement that would have ceded Jerusalem, and trisected the West Bank.
Now these new leaks reveal that it is the PLO/PA that has been making the generous offers, and Israel has been rejecting them. If the documents are to be believed, almost all of East Jerusalem has been on the table. Perhaps this time we should be grateful Israel hasn’t signed.
What next? The Palestinian leadership have two plausible options, but will likely take neither.
The first would to be attempt to retake the high ground. This would mean dissolving the PA, and refocusing its attention on the PLO’s primary task – the liberation of Palestine. This would also involve repairing relations with Hamas, and trying to bring all Palestinian political and civil forces into a rejuvenated organisation.
The second is to continue down the road of hoping that someone, somewhere will exert pressure on Israel to give up the occupied territories and recognise Palestinian rights.
10.56: The Guardian describes anger and disbelief among Palestinians in Gaza reacting to the release of the Palestine Papers:
Tailor Maher Mohammad, 50, said the revelations were incredible. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I watched it, this is cheating to Palestinian people. Jerusalem is a holy land, nobody can make concessions regarding it because it’s not for Palestinians only but for all Muslims.”
Mahmoud Ismael, 58, a shopkeeper, questioned the motives of the person who leaked the documents. Palestinians, he added, expected little from their leaders whether Fatah or Hamas. “Both of them don’t care about Palestine, they care only about their benefits,” he said.
Salah Bardaweel, a senior Hamas leader, said the organisation was studying the document. “We are asking the president Mahmoud Abbas to go to the public and announce his position on what was leaked by Al Jazeera, and make it clear we don’t accept that and assure the Palestinian principles on the key issues.”
The main problem now, he added, was “not between Hamas and Fatah, it’s now between the Palestinian people and the Palestinian negotiator”.
10.03: Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat accused of treason:
9.23: Some Palestinians who don’t like the message have attacked the messenger. AJ’s Alan Fisher tweets: “The crowd has managed to get into the office in Ramaallah. #aljazeera’s staff is ok. Some walls have graffiti”. Fisher nows says the crowd has gone and the AJ building is under police protection.
9.17: An editorial in The Guardian said:
[The British member of parliament] Gerald Kaufman once described Labour’s 1983 manifesto as the longest suicide note in history. If ever a set of documents merits this epithet, it is surely the one we publish today. Written by Palestinian officials, obtained by al-Jazeera and shared with the Guardian, the papers are the confidential record of 10 years of efforts to seek a peace agreement with Israel.
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. Together they conspire to build a puppet state in Palestine, at best authoritarian, at worst a surrogate for an occupying force. To obtain even this form of bondage, the Palestinians have to flog the family silver. Saeb Erekat, the PLO chief negotiator, is reduced at one point to pleading for a fig leaf: “What good am I if I’m the joke of my wife, if I’m so weak,” he told Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
9.12: AJ’s Clayton Swisher outlines the land swap agreement that Palestinian negotiators were offering — a swap that would be like exchanging real estate in Manhattan for vacant desert lots in Arizona:
9.05: Tariq Ali says that the extent of the capitulation documented in the papers would have shocked even Edward Said, who at its inception described the Oslo peace process as a ‘Palestinian Versailles’:
Even he would have been taken aback by the sheer scale of what the 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 Abbas and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, not to mention Washington and its EU. The PLO sold out in a literal sense. They were bought with money and treated like servants. There is TV footage of Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton at Camp David playfully tugging at 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.
9.00: Haaretz‘s Akiva Eldar says Palestine Papers trump US State Department cables released by WikiLeaks:
The documents revealed by Al Jazeera are much more important than the documents recently released by WikiLeaks. The former document the talks that took place in 2008 between the head of the Palestinian negotiating team and then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as with American officials, which is not just a chapter in history.
The compromises presented by the Palestinians vis-a-vis permanent borders in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are relevant to today. The Palestinian map that was shown to Ehud Olmert and representatives of the Bush administration was presented again two months ago to representatives of President Barack Obama, as well as Obama’s Mideast envoy George Mitchell and later Netanyahu’s representative Isaac Molcho. Molcho refused to accept the document.
The leaked documents completely discredit the claim that there is “no peace partner” made by the leader of the newly formed Atzmaut faction, Ehud Barak, and his boss, Benjamin Netanyahu.
8.53: Al Jazeera interviews Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor Al-Quds Al-Arabi