Al-Jazeera's "Transparency": Palestinian negotiators hung out to dry

We reported on this blog what Sa’eb Erekat said last May in a speech to an audience of Israeli officials, ex-officials, and journalists at the security think-tank INSS in Tel Aviv. [I was later told that Erekat was very pleased and thought it had been a great success, but Israelis present said that Erekat did not understand how to talk to an Israeli audience…]   At this session in Tel Aviv in May, Erekat told the crowd, who were of course polite, “that the Palestinian side had presented two maps of their own — one offering a territorial swap of 1.9 percent –countering the Olmert proposal for a 6.5 percent swap (including 0.7 percent for a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza). The second map, Erekat said, showed the built-up areas of Israeli settlements that constitute some 1.2 percent of West Bank land.  Erekat added that the 46 square kilometers of “no-man’s land” should be split down the middle ‘according to the Peru-Ecuador formula’  for their border conflict”. Our earlier report is posted here.

We reported also earlier, in March, here, that a Palestinian official in Ramallah said: “maps were ‘shown’ during the Annapolis process of negotiations in 2008. But, he said, the Israeli interlocutors ‘refused to hand over any maps or any papers’ … The Palestinians, he said, ‘gave an offer to exchange [or swap] 1.9 percent of the West Bank. We also showed this to the Americans and gave them [the Americans] a map’. The Israelis, he said, indicated they ‘had an idea of swapping 6.5 percent of the land”…

Here’s what Haaretz reported he’s been saying:
“According to Al-Jazeera, Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to concede almost all of East Jerusalem to Israel.
The Palestinian Authority reportedly offered in 2008 that Israel take control of all neighborhoods in Jerusalem except Har Homa, the first time in history the Palestinians made such a proposal, one that they refused to during the Camp David summit.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, also proposed in an October 2009 meeting that Jerusalem’s Old City be divided, giving Israel control over the Jewish Quarter, part of the Armenian Quarter, and part of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Further details reveal that the Palestinian agreed that solely10,000 Palestinian refugees return to Israel as part of the Palestinian right of return, and that Erekat agreed to the Israeli demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
Among other documents due to be released is an Israeli offer to transfer Israeli Arabs citizens to the territory of a future Palestinian state.
Moreover, Al-Jazeera revealed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was personally notified by a senior Israeli official that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip, the night before Operation Cast Lead. Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly discussed targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza”.
This is posted here.

The Jerusalem Post later reported that Erekat “denied that the PA had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said that when he was asked by Israel to accept this demand, he replied that it was tantamount to asking a Palestinian to join the Zionist movement”. Indeed, that is indeed what I heard him say, several times… This JPost report is posted here.

Al-Jazeera has been working on this for several months. A team of producers and reporters and correspondents has been in the Jerusalem-Ramallah area for the past couple of days. They thought, correctly, that this was going to be big, big, big — and the satellite channel gave the resources to support it. They also were — and are — prepared for other documents (from the Israelis?) to be revealed live, on air, as the program continues for several days this week

Many people had advance copies of some of this material.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he didn’t know where the documents had come from, but said that all information about the negotiations had been shared with his Arab brothers. Others said that the source came from within the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department itself (run by Erekat) — or perhaps some of its discontents.

It mighty be too much of a compliment to suggest that the suspended Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Dahlan and some of his group of supporters may have played a role… though this may in fact be the case.

In any case, it is worth reproducing a lot of Karma Nabulsi wrote almost immediately after the program in The Guardian’s Comment is Free Section here that: “It’s over. Given the shocking nature, extent and detail of these ghastly revelations from behind the closed doors of the Middle East peace process, the seemingly endless and ugly game is now, finally, over. Not one of the villains on the Palestinian side can survive it. With any luck the sheer horror of this account of how the US and Britain covertly facilitated and even implemented Israeli military expansion – while creating an oligarchy to manage it – might overcome the entrenched interests and venality that have kept the peace process going. A small group of men who have polluted the Palestinian public sphere with their private activities are now exposed. For us Palestinians, these detailed accounts of the secretly negotiated surrender of every one of our core rights under international law (of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, on annexing Arab Jerusalem, on settlements) are not a surprise. It is something that we all knew – in spite of official protests to the contrary – because we feel their destructive effects every day. The same is true of the outrageous role of the US and Britain in creating a security bantustan, and the ruin of our civic and political space. We already knew, because we feel its fatal effects … The release into the public domain of these documents is such a landmark because it destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process. Everything to do with it relied upon a single axiom: that each new initiative or set of negotiations with the Israelis, every policy or programme (even the creation of undemocratic institutions under military occupation), could be presented as carried out in good faith under harsh conditions: necessary for peace, and in the service of our national cause. Officials from all sides played a double game vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It is now on record that they have betrayed, lied and cheated us of basic rights, while simultaneously claiming they deserved the trust of the Palestinian people”

She continued: “This claim of representative capacity – and worse, the assertion they were representing the interests of Palestinians in their struggle for freedom – had become increasingly thin over the last decade and a half. The claim they were acting in good faith is absolutely shattered by the publication of these documents today, and the information to be revealed over this coming week. Whatever one’s political leanings, no one, not the Americans, the British, the UN, and especially not these Palestinian officials, can claim that the whole racket is anything other than a brutal process of subjugating an entire people … The Palestinian leadership’s weak and incompetent posturing is the opposite of dignified and honourable national representation, and proves useless to boot. On the positive side, had such deals eventually come to light, Palestinians would have rejected them comprehensively. But the worst betrayal has been what this hypocrisy has bequeathed to the young generation of Palestinians. These officials have led a new generation to believe that participating in public governance is base and self-seeking, that joining any political party is the least useful method to advance principals and create change. Through their harmful example, they have alienated young Palestinians from their own history of resistance to colonial and military rule, so they now believe that tens of thousands of brilliant, imaginative and extraordinarily brave Palestinians never existed or, worse, fought and died for nothing” …

Yes, and now I mourn for those who died.

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