January 25, 2011

The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 1)


Introduction

“Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents—memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations—date from 1999 to 2010” (Al Jazeera).


Palestinian Concessions

Settlements
The PA (Palestinian Authority) “secretly agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one of the settlements [Har Homa] built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem” (Guardian).  The PA also “privately discussed giving up part of the flashpoint Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah” (Guardian).

Refugees
“Palestinian negotiators privately agreed that only 10, 000 refugees and their families—out of a total refugee population exceeding 5 million—could return to Israel as part of a peace settlement” (Guardian).

Self-Defense
The PA secretly agreed to Israel’s demand that any future Palestinian state would be demilitarized (Guardian).

Israel as a Jewish State
“Palestinian negotiators privately accepted Israel’s demand that it define itself as a Jewish state” (Guardian).


So in Other Words…

The PA made extraordinary concessions to Israel.

Settlements
International law doesn’t require the Palestinians to relinquish any of the settlements in East Jerusalem.  To the contrary, international law states that the entirety of East Jerusalem is occupied territory and that all of the settlements there are illegal (International Court of Justice).

Refugees 
International law mandates that all of the five million refugees, not a mere “symbolic number,” be allowed to return to their and their ancestors’ homes (Al Jazeera).

Self-Defense
Given that Israel affirms its own right to self-defense, it is extraordinarily unfair that Palestinians not be given this same right.

Israel as a Jewish State
Given that 1 million Arabs live in Israel, it is extremely discriminatory to define Israel as a Jewish state.


Israeli Intransigence

Despite these truly remarkable concessions, Israel refused to end the occupation because the PA wouldn’t allow it to annex a number of settlements deeper in the West Bank, including Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Giv’at Ze’ev, and Ephrat.  As Al Jazeera notes, the annexation of these settlements “would be ruinous for the territorial contiguity of a future Palestinian state” (Al Jazeera).  Yet Tzipi Livni refused to surrender these settlements, telling the PA: “We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands, and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it” (Guardian).

So in other words, the Palestine Papers refute the oft-repeated claim that Palestinian leaders are to blame for the Middle East conflict and that Israel has done all it can reasonably be expected to do.  The truth, we see, is the exact opposite.  Palestinian leaders have made extraordinary concessions.  Palestinian leaders have in fact conceded too much; for the sake of obtaining their own state, they have sold out the very people they claim to represent.  And yet even this hasn’t been enough for Israeli leaders. 

As Rashid Khalidi states: “The most important [revelation], I think, is the degree to which not only Palestinian negotiators were forthcoming, but the degree to which the Israelis were unwilling to accept concessions. It seriously casts into doubt the idea that Israel would accept anything but complete capitulation by the Palestinians to absolutely everything they’re demanding on every front” (Democracy Now!).

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Notes

Settlements
In a June 2008 meeting between the PA, Israel, and the United States, former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei stated: “This last proposition could help in the swap process. We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa). This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David.”  Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat proceeded “to enumerate some of the settlements that the PA was willing to concede: French Hill, Ramat Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, Talpiot, and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s old city.”  Erekat “did not mention the fate of other major East Jerusalem settlements, like Pisgat Ze’ev and Neve Ya’akov, but Qurei’s language indicates that they would also remain a part of Israel” (Al Jazeera).  “It is difficult to imagine how the resulting patchwork of Palestinian enclaves in East Jerusalem, surrounded by Jewish settlements, could ever have functioned as the capital of the new state of Palestine” (Jonathan Cook).

Refugees
One document reports Erekat telling George Mitchell (Obama’s Middle East envoy): “On refugees, the deal is there.”  A later document reports Erekat confirmed the specifics of this deal to his own staff: “Olmert accepted 1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years.”  PA President Mahmoud Abbas is reported to have said in private: “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million. That would mean the end of Israel” (Guardian).

Self-Defense
As Erekat told George Mitchell in 2009: “The Palestinians know they will have a country with limitations.  They won't have an army, air force or navy” (Guardian).  And the following year, speaking to Obama advisor David Hale: “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?” (Al Jazeera).  Also see “Demanding a demilitarized state.
                                                                                                                            
Israel as a Jewish State
Given that 1/5th of Israel’s population is Palestinian, Palestinian leaders have publicly condemned any suggestion that Israel be defined in ethnic or religious terms.  “But behind closed doors in November 2007, Erekat told Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister and now opposition leader: ‘If you want to call your state the Jewish state of Israel you can call it what you want,’ comparing it to Iran and Saudi Arabia's definition of themselves as Islamic or Arab” (Guardian). 

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The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 2)
The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 3)

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