Saturday, February 5, 2011

About The Palestine Papers

Palestine Papers logo
The pro-Muslim news source known as al Jazeera out of the Emirate of Qatar has released some WikiLeak-like documents that were exchanged between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority (PA) that shows the PA to be a bit more malleable to Israeli concessions than the Jew-hatred of Arabs that call themselves Palestinians care to hear about.

The PA originally denounced the documents as fake. Some believe that some of the documents are authentic with a portion being fabricated by al Jazeera.

Below are four news stories beginning with an al Jazeera introduction to the 1600 – 1700 documents followed by two Conservative sources which are the Weekly Standard, Wall Street Journal and then the Ma’an News Agency.

JRH 2/5/11
The Palestine Papers: Introducing The Palestine Papers
Al Jazeera has obtained more than 1,600 internal documents from a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Gregg Carlstrom
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2011 15:32 GMT

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.

The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials.

Al Jazeera will release the documents between January 23-26th, 2011. They will reveal new details about:
  • the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount
  •  the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;
  • details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;
  • and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, Al Jazeera will not reveal the source(s) or detail how they came into our possession. We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity.

We believe this material will prove to be of inestimable value to journalists, scholars, historians, policymakers and the general public.

We know that some of what is presented here will prove controversial, but it is our intention to inform, not harm, to spark debate and reflection – not dampen it. Our readers and viewers will note that we have provided a comments section in which to express opinions. In keeping with our editorial policies, we reserve the right to excise comments that we deem inappropriate, but all civil voices will be heard, all opinions respected.

We present these papers as a service to our viewers and readers as a reflection of our fundamental belief – that public debate and public policies grow, flourish and endure when given air and light.
On the Palestine Papers

5:00 PM, Jan 24, 2011

The first thing that should be said about the Guardian and Al Jazeera’s dump of 1,600 documents supposedly belonging to the Palestinian Negotiation Support Unity and supposedly detailing more than a decade of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations is that neither media outlet has said how it authenticated these disclosures. The U.S. State Department and the BBC aren’t so quick to call this a WikiLeaks-like gotcha and there’s no Palestinian Bradley Manning sitting behind bars for leaking sensitive state information. (One rumor I’ve been hearing all day in London is that Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, recently sidelined by the Abbas government, was the culprit.) PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat -- himself a well quoted figure in these documented meetings -- calls the content of the documents “lies and half-truths.” Palestinian Authority spokesman Ahmed Qurei more cautiously says that large parts of them were “fabricated.”
Assuming they are true, however, what exactly is revealed?

Substantively, not a whole lot, as Noah Pollak and others have already pointed out. At least not more than what has already been known or assumed about Arab-Israeli negotiations since the Oslo Accords. For instance, it was reported two years ago that in 2008, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert made another generous offer, which would’ve given the Palestinians 93 percent of the West Bank, a divided Jerusalem according to the Clinton Parameters, a “safe passage” between Gaza and the West Bank, a roughly equal land swap for territories annexed by Israel, and the symbolic reabsorption of about 5,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel.  These documents confirm each point of that deal.

For his part, Erekat is seen to be a much more savvy diplomatic operator behind closed doors than he is in public. He’d have voted for Tzipi Livni for Israeli prime minister, he says at one point in her company. He also tells her that “We are building for you the biggest Yerushalayim in history,” which the Guardian is very keen to explain is the Hebrew word of that much-disputed city, the mere utterance of which will sound “humiliating” to Palestinians, as though it were the equivalent of Martin McGuinness describing the firmness of Queen Elizabeth’s handshake. Erekat even admits -- though this bit somehow didn’t make it into the Guardian’s news reporting on the papers -- that Israelis are more friendly to the two-state solution than Palestinians “sometimes” are, surely a groundbreaking revelation to anyone who’s ever compared Israeli and Palestinian television broadcasts.

What the Palestine Papers do demonstrate is the sanity and pragmatism of the current administration in Ramallah and the difficulty it faces in trying to do a deal that so many non-Palestinian narrative peddlers clearly view with disdain. Not that they will bear the consequences of their opinions; that responsibility, as ever, falls to the Palestinians.

One of the unintended consequences of Obama’s Middle East policy was that it forced Mahmoud Abbas into the awkward position of focusing on everything that didn’t matter and ignoring everything that did, namely Salam Fayyad’s ambitious and exclusively homegrown state-building project, which, entering its second and final year, still represents the best hope for an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. It was said at the time by astute commentators that the head of PLO could not position himself to the right of the American president on settlements.

Now the European intelligentsia is having its turn. If the PLO sues for peace, then the Guardian will demand its unconditional surrender. Here’s the lead editorial in today’s newspaper, which suggests that the Palestine Papers read like the longest suicide note in history:

“The Palestinian Authority may continue as an employer but, as of today, its legitimacy as negotiators will have all but ended on the Palestinian street. The two-state solution itself could just as swiftly perish with it.”

One gets the feeling that this isn’t so terribly lamented by the editors.

Michael Weiss is the executive director of Just Journalism, a London-based think tank that monitors the British media's coverage of Israel and the Middle East.

© Copyright 2011 The Weekly Standard LLC - A Weekly Conservative Magazine & Blog. All Rights Reserved
The Real 'Palestine Papers' Scandal
The real outrage is that the Guardian would object to peace overtures in favor of continued intransigence.

FEBRUARY 1, 2011

Last week Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera and Britain's Guardian newspaper released a tranche of 1,600 documents that appear to consist of Palestinian negotiators' emails and meeting minutes covering the past 10 years of manic-depressive Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.

The Guardian presented these disclosures in grand tabloid style, claiming in an editorial that they show the Palestinian Authority to be "craven" and "weak" for its willingness to compromise with Israel. The real scandal is not that the Palestinian leadership was willing to consider certain concessions to end the conflict, but that the Guardian would object to those peace overtures in favor of continued intransigence.

Chief among the findings in the "Palestine Papers," as they have come to be called, are that the Palestinians are willing to cede certain neighborhoods in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem to Israel in exchange for compensatory land elsewhere; and that several million Palestinians' so-called "Right of Return" to Israel would be honored symbolically but not actually.

None of these compromises were ever certified by formal agreement on either side, nor did they rise above the level of presuppositions and negotiating starting points. More importantly, the broad outlines of these concessions have been public information since the Camp David summit of 2000, which is where these minutes and emails begin.

But according to Guardian editorial writers, the leaked papers read like "the longest suicide note in history." Although in the final paragraph of its first editorial on the subject, the newspaper perfunctorily expresses its faith in a two-state solution, its spin on these documents over the past week suggests otherwise.

The same editorial instructs us that the only way forward is for the U.S. to recognize the terror organization Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction and incorporates the most primitive anti-Semitism in its founding charter. By presenting the Palestinian Authority's compromises as nothing less than treasonous, the Guardian has helped to undermine Palestinian moderates and bolster the extremists.

Consider also the Guardian's decision on Wednesday to give the newspaper's comment section over to Osama Hamdan, the head of Hamas's international relations department, who has explicitly defended suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. As late as 2007, Mr. Hamdan said the "final goal of the resistance is to wipe this entity [Israel] off the face of the Earth." Last week, he used his column space in the Guardian to affirm his party's aim to "regain the initiative in order to protect our cause and isolate those who have betrayed it." All that was missing here was an explicit call for a third Intifada against Israel or another Palestinian civil war. Is this the Guardian's idea of a viable partner for peace?

Finally, the Guardian deemed worthy of publication a letter to the editor written by University College London professor Ted Honderich, who wrote "the Palestinians have a moral right to their terrorism within historic Palestine against neo-Zionism." Well, it was good of him to avoid euphemisms in suggesting how Hamas might "regain the initiative."

No journalist will dispute the right to publish privileged information. But at a time when the Middle East is on the verge of major upheavals—some of them overdue and potentially democratic as in Egypt and Tunisia, others theocratic and potentially violent as in Lebanon—it is the height of irresponsibility for a major news outlet to frame the contents of privileged information as more explosive than they really are. Not to mention egging on the people who will do the actual exploding.

Mr. Weiss is executive director of Just Journalism, a London-based think tank that monitors how the British media cover Israel and the Middle East.

Copyright ©2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Palestinian negotiator backtracks on CIA charge

By George Hale
Published yesterday (updated) 05/02/2011 18:34

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The PLO's chief negotiator has backed down from allegations an Al-Jazeera journalist worked for the CIA and stole a cache of documents on behalf of the Qatar-based TV network.
Saeb Erekat claimed in January that Clayton Swisher, a US citizen and Al-Jazeera International journalist, was a current member of the CIA who had worked six months in the PLO's Negotiations Support Unit.
Pressed by Ma'an for evidence of the CIA charge, a dangerous allegation for an American in some parts of the Middle East, Erekat conceded the journalist neither worked for the Palestinians nor the US intelligence agency.

Investigators are still seeking information about the leak and will attempt to compel Swisher to testify, but "he didn't work for the CIA ... No, he never worked in my office," Erekat said late Thursday in an interview at Ma'an headquarters. He also fielded questions about the leak from a live studio audience.
Erekat's latest comments marked a departure from allegations he made on air and in private in the immediate aftermath of the scandal brought by Al-Jazeera's release of the Palestine papers.

The 1,600 pages of minutes, maps and proposals show negotiators made major concessions in talks with Israel. The documents suggest the PLO would abandon settlement blocs and refugees' right of return.

Defending his actions as chief negotiator in an interview with Al-Jazeera on Jan. 26, Erekat accused the network of ignoring its journalists' ties to the US and European intelligence communities.

The PA's concessions are not binding, and it insists many have been taken out of context. (Two documents seen by Agence France-Presse suggest the Palestinians briefly stuck to their guns on certain issues.)

Still, many Palestinians were as outraged by the PA's response as they were at the revelations, saying both exposed a leadership out of touch with its people. In Gaza, Hamas organized mass protests condemning the PA.

As soon as the papers were released, the Palestinian government in Ramallah repeatedly denounced Al-Jazeera and its Qatari sponsors. On Thursday, Erekat said the disclosure was a national security issue.
That is why the PA is moving forward on an internal investigation into the source of the leaks, Erekat says. The committee has already questioned Erekat and cleared him of wrongdoing, he said.
Now it wants Swisher and two other foreign nationals to appear for questioning.
The PA has not formally stated why its investigators want to interrogate the others. One of them is a writer who once worked in British intelligence and another is a French citizen of Arab origin.
"I'm not accusing them of anything," Erekat said. "We just want to talk to them. All we want is due process."

Al-Jazeera did not answer calls, but a representative of Swisher has categorically denied the allegations. He says the remarks are dangerous, asking Ma'an to remove them from past articles.
Erekat did not say why he initially accused the journalist of being a CIA operative, noting only Swisher's brief employment with the State Dept.'s bureau of diplomatic security. (Both sides agree on that point.)
In any case, the PA has requested assistance from the US State Dept., British foreign office, and French authorities, Erekat said. Asked if any were cooperating, he said Washington was reviewing legal procedures.

"The US told me they were still studying the request," Erekat said.
The State Dept. did not respond to several attempts to confirm its involvement.

All Rights Reserved © Ma'an News Agency 2005 - 2011

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