2011-01-26 The Palestine Papers (Part 2 of 2) [UPDATE 1]

Part 1 of the Palestine Papers summary is here. The summary concludes with the last documents released on January 26th, and Al Jazeera’s editorials on the documents.

Private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

PA stonewalled the Goldstone voteThe UN Human Rights Council was to vote on a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza, on October 2, 2009. The Palestine Papers document exchanges between the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority during that period. The Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, looking for an agreement he could politically agree to, was convinced by the US, who were determined that Obama’s promises of renewed negotiations would be met, that renewing negotiations was in their best interests.

During a series of meetings, Erekat presses for some guidelines or foundations for the discussion“SE cautioned that if the US announced negotiations and there is no agreement on these issues, there will be a disaster.” The US refuses to provide any, making clear that for them, the process is the important object. “Undoubtedly you’’ve perceived the sense of urgency of the President. He attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations … Regardless of the package with the Israelis, we are not asking you to agree to it. So there is no risk of acquiescence.”

From minutes of a meeting between Saeb Erekat and George Mitchell on September 24, 2009:

SE: No. For me Jerusalem is the same as the rest of West Bank. No one, including your government says it’s not occupied territory! So by allowing them this to take place we will be acquiescing to it. We cannot allow it. Again, I appreciate your efforts, but Israel is the occupier, not the US, so it is not enough for Obama to merely say the word Jerusalem. That’s why I asked if you have anything new to tell me. For me this is about international law, legitimacy and principles, not making these deals. With this, you’re better off without a deal than with one. The mere fact that Jerusalem is not part of the moratorium will mean the Arabs won’t accept it. It’s a victory for Netanyahu and he can continue to rule for years, and I will continue to live under occupation. I’ve stated this to you every time we met – wherever and whenever: Anything that takes Jerusalem out will be a non-starter. …

SE: Let’s go back to the Roadmap. It is US language. You knew what you were writing. What we have is ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem …

SE: You know Bibi! I’ve heard this before and I’ve been there before. I simply cannot afford to go into a process that is bound to fail. I am trying to defend my existence and way of life. You know I asked to meet with the Israelis several times- they refused because they told want to answer my questions. And then he says I am a “wild beast of a man” – you know the reference to Ishmael … what a disgrace. I would shake hands with Lieberman and tell him “Shana Tovah” instead of this incitement. You talked about incitement – we have taken significant steps, the sermons in the mosques are under control …

SE: When BO says settlements are illegitimate in front of the whole world, Israel continues, despite this and despite all of international law – the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, Security Council resolutions. Why then did you reach the position that there needs to be a freeze, including natural growth? This was your language. And why did you then change your mind? Why is it now changed to “restraint”? …

SE: … If you couldn’t deliver on this why did you say that at the beginning? Why didn’t you say “limitations” instead of “freeze”? Now BO is saying “restraints”. …

 

The US prevailed. The Al Jazeera report states that on October 2, 2009, as the Palestinian Authority called for a deferral of the UNHRC vote, they also had agreed to a US document containing the sentence:

“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”

 

The fallout of Erekat’s support of a deferral among Palestine’s Arab neighbours is discussed by Al Jazeera in Erekat “told Amr Moussa to behave”.

What the minutes actually reveal here is that almost 18 years into the (failed) peace process, the Palestinians have edged too closely towards the Americans, to the detriment of their relations with the Arabs. On the other hand they oppose any level of new Israeli-Arab rapprochement they’re not central to.

 

This is discussed further in “The region is slipping away”.

The possibility that the Palesinian Authority had foreknowledge of the attack on Gaza that killed approximately 1400 Palestinians

Al Jazeera discusses this in PA’s foreknowledge of the Gaza war? pointing to quotes such as

Gilad: The West Bank is coming and this is Hamas’ strategic goal. We are not negotiating with them but we allow the entry of food and fuel into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons. My strategic advice for you is to be ready. It is like Achilles’ heel; if the situation goes on as it is for a year or two more, you will become weaker and Hamas will have control over the West Bank. They in Hamas understand the situation and they are fearful. Gaza was only an example. They understand the mood in Israel.

 

to contradict Erekat’s claims that the Palestinian Authority did not discuss with Israel their attacks on Gaza that left 1400 Palestinians dead. According to Erekat, “We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war … there were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the war.”

The increasingly frequent threat from Palestine of a one state solution as a negotiating tool or a viable option.

The threat of a one-state solution From 2007 on, Erekat, the chief PA negotiator, began referring to the one-state solution as a so-called BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. In a meeting on October 2, 2009, he stated, “It is the last time for the two states. My option, the BATNA, if all this goes down, is the one state.”

In a meeting on October 21 2009 he repeated the threat:

Erekat: We know what it take[s], after 19 years. They [the Israelis] cannot decide if they want two states. They want to keep settling in the areas of my state.

Mitchell: But they will settle more if you continue this way.

Erekat: Then we announce the one state and the struggle for equality in the state of Israel. If our state will not be viable and will have the wall we will fight against apartheid. You either have a decision for peace or a decision for settlements. You cannot have both.

 

From Al Jazeera:

A poll released in April 2010 by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, for example, found 34 per cent support for a bi-national state, up from 21 per cent in June 2009. An October 2010 pollf from the Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research found 27 per cent support for a one-state option, up from 23 per cent in May 2009.

In 2003, Muammar Qadafi was one of the first Arab leaders to publicly endorse a one-state solution, which he named ‘Isratine’ [a combination of the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’]. Qadafi argued that a two-state option would create unacceptable security hazards for Israel on the one hand, and would do little to address the issue of the Palestinian refugees on the other.

 

Miscellaneous items of interest.

A glimpse into the negotiation room Al Jazeera has collected a few of the lighter moments of the negotiations in this article including:

  • US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who was prone to anecdotes of what her father used to say, and suggested sending the Palestinian diaspora to live in Chile and Argentina, seriously suggested Palestine use Jordan’s airspace as their own since Palestine’s was “too small”.
  • Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni joked, “We’ve a saying too. When you want to curse somebody you tell him “Go to hell” but we shorten it and say “Go to Gaza.”
  • Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “Whoever will be able to reach an agreement to solve this conflict will be the most important figure in the region after Jesus Christ!”
  • And more …

Al Jazeera revisits the extent to which the Palestinian Authority was prepared to subordinate the immediate needs of Palestinians to the battle with Hamas, of which they often spoke of with Israeli officials as a common enemy, in PA lobbying blocked Shalit swap .

The PA vs. Al Jazeera highlights the mentions of the Qatar based Al Jazeera media in the Palestine Papers.

Ahmed Qurei: Al-Jazeera is not our friend, they are with Hamas. So this leak is not the result of journalism, it is a political decision.

Al Jazeera: We adhere “to the highest editorial standards and offer viewers impartial, balanced and in-depth coverage of events in the region and beyond. … To underline our commitment to transparency and accountability, we are publishing all of the documents in the Palestine Papers online, including allegations made against Al Jazeera.”

 

The conclusions drawn from the Palestine Papers by Al Jazeera.

An Al Jazeera editorial by Alistair Crooke, What prospect for reconciliation?, looks at the current situation revealed by the Palestine Papers:

The Palestine Papers show that the so-called mission of “establishing rule of law” has become a mere codeword for suppressing Hamas, the Islamist organization that won elections in 2006. From 2001 until present, the Palestinian security forces went from being accused by Israel and the West of complicity in terrorism against Israel, to terrorizing their own society. This was clearly reflected in a conversation between U.S. Security Coordinator Lt. General Keith Dayton (USA), and Saeb Erekat on June 24, 2009.

Dayton: “By the way, the intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them. They say they are giving as much as they are taking from them – but they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people”.

The Palestinian Authority laid out the extent of its cooperation with Israel in a confidential memo they gave Senator George Mitchell in June 2009. Among the actions they highlighted:

  • Arrested approximately 3,700 members of armed groups;
  • Summoned around 4,700 individuals for questioning about various offences, including affiliations with armed groups;
  • Confiscated over 1,100 weapons;
  • Seized over 2,500,000 NIS belonging to armed groups;
  • Confiscated numerous materials used to incite violence.

 

The editorial concludes that reconciliation between the Fatah leadership and Hamas is not possible because

Firstly, it is impossible because the enmity towards Hamas has been so systemized, so ‘built-in’ to every aspect of life, and to every institution, that it would require the dismantling of everything that was built by Abbas and the Americans during the last decade, to make ‘reconciliation’ mean something more than empty words.

But secondly, it will not happen because simply – as the Palestine Papers so starkly reveal – there was nothing on offer. Netanyahu and Livni offered Abbas nothing. In short, what is there to talk about with Hamas? Abbas had nothing to give.

 

The relationship between the Palestinian Authority and the US is discussed further in US sidelined Palestinian democracyThe US role as Israel’s enabler and A letter to the Palestinian people.

Full coverage of the Palestine Papers, with maps and profiles of the main featured players, is available at the Guardian as well as Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Added section The possibility that the Palesinian Authority had foreknowledge of the attack on Gaza that killed approximately 1400 Palestinians which had been inadvertently deleted.

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