January 28, 2011

The Palestine Papers: A Summary (Part 3)

With US support, Palestinian Authority engaged in torture

The Palestine Papers provide unprecedented access into the internal workings of the U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process. But the leaked documents and meetings also touch on other key issues surrounding U.S. intervention in the conflict – including dozens of documents on Palestinian security issues. At the heart of these is the work of the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC), what many refer to as “The Dayton Mission,” – a designation derived from the USSC’s chief, Lt. General Keith Dayton, who retired last October. Among other things they confirm – from Dayton’s own mouth – that Palestinian Authority forces supported by the United States engaged in torture.  (Mark Perry)

PA lobbying blocked prisoner exchange

For almost five years, family members of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails have waited in the hope that they might be reunited with their loved ones as Israel and Hamas engaged in mediated negotiations on a deal to exchange Gilad Shalit, the single Israeli prisoner of war held in the Gaza Strip, for the freedom of Palestinian prisoners.

But despite high expectations, the deal has never materialized. Analysis of secret minutes of meetings between top Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials revealed in The Palestine Papers shows that strenuous PA lobbying likely torpedoed the deal in mid-2008 with the result that far fewer Palestinian prisoners have been released by Israel.

The PA officials were concerned that an Israeli deal with Hamas would further weaken the PA and its US-supported leader Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the Fatah political faction, Hamas' main rival.

This revelation underscores the extent to which the PA was prepared to subordinate the immediate needs of Palestinians -- including prisoners and their families -- to the desperate battle with Hamas, of which they often spoke of with Israeli officials as a common enemy.  (Ali Abunimah)

PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote

On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.  (Al Jazeera)

Admiral Mullen says Palestinian state is a U.S. ‘cardinal interest’ after raising troop deaths

General David Petraeus backed away from uttering similar words, but it's clearly a view that holds wide currency in the U.S. military establishment:  ending the Israel/Palestine conflict is a core U.S. interest that affects the safety of U.S. soldiers.  Haaretz picks up (though they bury it) that U.S. Admiral Michael Mullen"linkage" argument in a document published by Al Jazeera as part of the "Palestine Papers."  (Alex Kane

The US role as Israel's enabler

The Palestine Papers give the world an unprecedented look inside the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, but they also provide a fly-on-the-wall view of how key senior American officials view their role as negotiators which, as the paprs show, apparently means never taking any position to which an Israeli government might object. The series of six documents that provide a core element to understanding the debates that raged over Israeli settlements show just how willing the U.S. is to acquiesce to Israeli demands – and how willing they are to pressing the PA leadership to move forward on the negotiations despite Israel’s flaunting of international agreements, including freezing all settlement activity.  (Mark Perry and Ali Abunimah)

[T]he documents put to death the idea that Israel has no Palestinian "partner for peace."  On the contrary, they reveal a PA leadership that is desperate for peace -- sometimes to the point of being craven -- and getting no help at all from the Israelis and precious little from the United States. They keep offering various concessions and trying different formulas, and get bupkus in return. Indeed, even when they might think they've obtained something of value -- such as Condi Rice's pledge that the 1967 borders will be the baseline for negotiations and territorial swaps -- they find that the next set of US negotiators take it away with scarcely a backward glance.

In this sense, the documents also expose the bipartisan and binational strategy that Israel and the United States have followed under both Bush and Obama: to keep putting pressure on the Palestinians to cut a one-sided deal.  And if you thought George Mitchell was acting like an even-handed mediator, think again: he keeps leaning on the Palestinians to get back to the table, to accept a less-than-complete settlement freeze, etc., yet there's no hint of any pressure on the Israeli side.  (Stephen Walt)

The Palestine Papers and the "Gaza coup"

In February 2007, after months of clashes between their supporters, Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a "national unity government" headed by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Enraged by this, the US government hatched a plot, along with Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, to engage Hamas militarily in Gaza. But the plot failed and in June 2007 Hamas turned the tables and overran Dahlan's US-supported militias.

Until now, the most comprehensive and essential account of these events was contained in David Rose's April 2008 Vanity Fair article, "The Gaza Bombshell."

An initial reading of the Palestine Papers supports Rose's account and provides details of hitherto unknown secret, high-level "Quadripartite" meetings among Israeli, American, Egyptian and Palestinian officials whose explicit goal appears to have been to undermine the national unity government. The essential point here is that part of the PA -- loyal to Mahmoud Abbas and backed by the US -- was actively plotting with Israel and its allies against the legitimately-constituted unity government.  (Ali Abunimah)

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