January 26, 2011

EDITOR: Palestine Papers continue to sting both Israel and the PA, as well as the US and UK

Today we learn that bot MI6 and the CIA have worked tirelessly to get rid of the Hamas movement for a decade, assisting Israel and the PA in their various attempts to thwart Hamas as the leading force in Palestinian politics. What the result of their effort was we all remember well – the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections six years ago, and the strt of the longest ever blockade of over a million and a half people, mostly refugees, in what has become the largest open air concentration camp on earth.

Palestinians will be pleased to learn that their ‘leaders’ in Ramallah were discussing the extra judiicial murder of a number of Palestinian activists, some who have indeed been murdered eventually. What emerges from those meetings is the great intimacy between the sides, as well as the deep contempt in which the very leadership of the PA is held by Israel and the US; on the one hand, they make use of them, on the other, they really despise them. Not an atypical colonial scenario, and one Franz Fanon wrote well about over fifty years ago.

Then it gets even better – the South American option of resettling the refugees is now blown open, shocking people in those countries as well as the refugees themselves. This will run and run.

The besieged leadership in Ramallah, has in the meantime flipped a number of times, in the time-honoured fashion so beloved of the Israeli leadership… it seems that by working closely together for many years, some of the Israeli methods have rubbed off, and adopted by the Palestinian democrats… First, like the IDF always does in such cases, they called the papers a ‘pack of lies’ and dubbed Al Jazeera as “Zionist’, then today comes the admission that the papers are indeed genuine, and the PA is looking for the culprit who leaked them… The problem for them is not that Al Jazeera are zionist, but that they themselves emerge from this round of the revelations as ardent Zionists…

It is clear that we will soon learn of arrest and trioal of Palestinian ‘traitors’ who leaked the papers, in the tradition beloved of Middle Eastern regimes. Israel has done the same in the case of Anat Kamm, for example. Whoever tells the truth will pay dearly, no doubt. However, should not the corrupt leaders in Ramallah be worried about the wind blowing East from Tunis, already affecting Egypt? The hot Khamsin is almost due, coming normally around March, and blowing for fifty days, supposedly, hence its name. This time, the Khamsin has come early, and the corrupt leaders might do better than trying top continue lying, torturing and silencing their populations. Maybe they are better looking for a nice place in Saudi Arabia?

Well, this Khamsin might even blow that far.

Palestine Papers Part 3

Palestinian negotiator rejects claims of back door deals with Israel: The Guardian

PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat says leaked documents show how passionately Palestinians want peace

• Saeb Erekat: Papers are a distraction from the real issue

Saeb Erekat says the leaked papers show how far Palestinians are willing to go to reach a settlement. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, has described the leak of confidential memos documenting a decade of Middle East peace talks as a “slander campaign” and insisted that no single concession will be agreed without a comprehensive agreement with Israel, whose colonisation of Palestinian land is the “only constant”.

Writing in today’s Guardian, Erekat rebuffs accusations that he has been involved in “backdoor dealings” with Israel, but fails to repeat his previous claim that the documents – obtained by Al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian – are “a pack of lies”.

He says the lesson that should be drawn from the documents is that the Palestinians are serious about peace.

“What should be taken from these documents is that Palestinian negotiators have consistently come to the table in complete seriousness and in good faith, and that we have only been met by rejection on the other end,” he writes. “Conventional wisdom, supported by the press, has allowed Israel to promote the idea that it has always lacked a partner. If it has not been before, it should now be painfully obvious that the very opposite is true. It is Palestinians who have lacked, and who continue to lack, a serious partner for peace.”

He underlines that any solution agreed in negotiations must pass a Palestinian national referendum – though the documents reveal him admitting that it will not be possible to hold a vote outside the West Bank and Gaza, which would leave millions of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon unable to take part.

Evidence from the papers shows Palestinian negotiators agreed privately in 2008 to let Israel annex all but one of the settlements built illegally in East Jerusalem and accepted the return of a symbolic number of 10,000 refugees to Israel. “Nothing would be agreed,” Erekat writes, “until everything is agreed”.

The papers also show the PLO working closely with Israeli security forces to target Hamas and other militants.

Publication of the Palestine papers has generated angry reactions from Palestinians, especially the PLO’s Islamist rival Hamas, which advocates armed resistance and will only negotiate with Israel on a long-term ceasefire.

The latest revelations show Tony Blair, envoy for the Quartet, was perceived by PA officials to have a pro-Israel stance and to advocate “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”. A spokesman for Blair said today: “There has been real change on the ground as a result of Tony Blair’s efforts. The economy is now flourishing in the West Bank with double digit growth and falling unemployment. Palestinians are now able to move in the West Bank in ways impossible when Tony Blair started pushing for changes in the access and movement regime.”

Other papers describe how the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, tried to persuade a Palestinian businessman to contribute millions of dollars to a radio station for the Iranian opposition after the country’s presidential elections in 2009.

Abbas’s move was cited by Erekat in a meeting with the US Middle East envoy George Mitchell as evidence of the PA’s support for US goals in the region, especially its attempts to counter the influence of Iran, which finances Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote: Al Jazeera online

PA, with US encouragement, delayed a UN vote on the Goldstone Report into war crimes committed during Israel’s Gaza war.

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The Palestine Papers reveal the conversations between US and PA officials in the days before the vote [EPA]
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.

Quid pro quo

The Goldstone Report, formally known as the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released in mid-September 2009 amid calls for a review of Israel’s wartime practices. The probe was led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge; it identified war crimes committed overwhelmingly by Israeli forces, but also by Hamas, during Israel’s war on Gaza.

Both the United States and Israel were outspoken in their criticism of the report, claiming that any UN endorsement would endanger the peace process and future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already admitted that the PA asked for the postponement; he said at the time it was to secure more international support before the vote.

“Since we felt we would not be able to gather enough support we asked for the postponement,” Abbas said in October 2009. “We wanted to reach mechanisms that would ensure the implementation of the decision and punish the perpetrators of crimes against our people.”

What The Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.

At a September 24, 2009 meeting between Saeb Erekat, George Mitchell and David Hale, the latter informed Erekat that “Our intention is to move quickly to relaunch negotiations. We are wrapping up an agreement on a package with Israel, and including other parties.”

Erekat resisted, saying “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.” Mitchell informs Erekat that President Barack Obama’s “attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations; delay will not be beneficial to anyone.”

During the same meeting, the U.S. also stressed to the PA that it was actively engaged in supporting the PA through other means. Mitchell informs Erekat, “I’ve devoted half my time over the last several months to things like getting you support (for example with Kuwait), not just financial. We will stay the course on this.”

At end of the meeting, Mitchell invites Erekat to Washington, D.C., on the day before the UNHRC was due to vote on the Goldstone report. “Regarding coming to DC next week…you should come next Friday,” Mitchell said. Erekat resisted, countering, “That does not give us enough time to go back and consult…”

The Palestine Papers further divulge that during the exact time of the crucial UNHRC vote, Erekat was in Washington, D.C. seeking more guarantees from the United States.

During a meeting at the U.S. State Department with Mitchell and Hale, on October 1, 2009, Mitchell reiterated to Erekat not only the U.S.’s commitment to a new round of talks, but also U.S. willingness to take a more active role on behalf of the Palestinians.

Mitchell said the U.S. would “explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem (non-recognition of Israeli annexation and related actions; demolitions, evictions etc.) In such a situation, with negotiations going on, if [Israel] make a provocative announcement, the US has the leverage to state that this undermines the process, and that Israel is acting in bad faith in the negotiations.”

Erekat further bared not only the PA’s reliance on the United States, but the PA’s desperation to get back to the negotiation table. Erekat informs Mitchell that “peace through negotiations is a strategic choice… Our whole future depends on it, and we are counting on the US to help us… Another failure will be devastating.”

The following day, on October 2, 2009- while President Abbas was in New York pushing to postpone the vote on Goldstone – Erekat again met with Senator Mitchell. This time, Erekat appeared to use the expected international backlash to the vote deferral as a bargaining chip in proving their commitment to peace talks.

“I did not come here to complain, but to try to help move forward,” Erekat told Mitchell. “Many people strongly objected to [Abu Mazen] going to NYC and me coming to Washington.”

Mitchell continued building a case to Erekat and the PA on why all parties should move quickly to negotiations. “For 60 years, the choices open to the Palestinian people have become less and less attractive,” Mitchell said. “The circumstance under which they live worse and worse…..Believe me it is the best time.”

Erekat, meanwhile, only seemed to further push Palestinian priorities behind those of even Israel. “We find ourselves in the eye of the storm,” Erekat lamented to Mitchell. “We pray every day that Israel will come to the point where they realize that a Palestinian state on the [1967] border is in their interest…That’s why we are frustrated. We want to help the Israelis.”

At the very same meeting, Senator Mitchell presented Erekat with a document containing language that, if agreed to, would nullify one of the PA’s few weapons – the chance to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The U.S. language stated:

“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.”

Erekat, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority accepted the language and simultaneously agreed to call for a deferral of the UNHRC vote. Unsurprisingly, this decision was met by outrage, as Palestinians and Arab nations condemned the PA leadership for kowtowing yet again to American and Israeli pressure.

Israel leaked the PA’s support for the resolution deferral on the day before the UNHRC vote was to take place. Erekat, undoubtedly caught off-guard, was outspoken in his complaints weeks later to the U.S. on what he perceived as unfair Israeli tactics. In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones on October 21, 2009, Erekat revealed:

“Then came Goldstone and all hell broke loose. You know the first public response to the Goldstone thing came from Lieberman, who said Abu Mazen agreed to postpone the vote because the Israelis threatened to release the “tapes” showing him coordinating the attack on Gaza with Israel. Then there was the report that he did it for Wataniya, which they said is owned by his two sons.”

Jones, however, was quick to assure Erekat that the PA’s efforts would not go unnoticed. “And thank you for what you did a couple weeks ago,” Jones told Erekat. “It was very courageous.”

That same day, Erekat also met with Mitchell, and wasted no time in asking for the U.S. to deliver on its previous promises.

Erekat: When can you give me something, a document or a package, so I can take it to [Abu Mazen], so we can study it in good faith?

Mitchell: Much of what I read is not controversial…

For the United States, and unfortunately for the PA, it was simply business as usual.

The threat of a one-state solution: Al Jazeera online

PA negotiators are increasingly proposing an idea that’s met with derision from Israelis, sharp criticism from the US.

Erekat raised the one-state option during several 2009 meetings with US envoy George Mitchell [EPA]
Palestinian negotiators are more frequently threatening to abandon the goal of a two-state solution in their conflict with Israel and are pushing for a one-state option instead.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is very well aware that a one-state solution constitutes a threat to Israel, and has used the threat during half a dozen meetings documented in The Palestine Papers.

The two-state solution remains the conceptual basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, as it has failed to accomplish a final agreement, Palestinian interest in a one-state solution has seemingly grown.

The one-state solution is generally presented as a nightmare scenario for Israel. The likelihood that Palestinians might one day constitute an electoral majority in a bi-national state – which is seen as inevitable – is viewed by many Israeli Jews as a threat to the ‘Jewish character’ of the country.

Quoted in a post-Annapolis interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz in November 2007, Ehud Olmert, the then-prime minister, warned of the implications of a one-state solution.

“If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”

The Palestine Papers reveal that from the run up to the Annapolis talks in 2007 onwards, the PA has increasingly used the one-state solution ‘threat’ during negotiations with Israeli and American officials.

In an April 2008 meeting between Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, and Ahmed Qurei, the former PA prime minister, Israel proposed land-swaps that, according to the Palestinians, did not abide by the 1967 borders. When met with the one-state solution threat, Livni was quick to change her tone:

Qurei: I agreed to listen to your propositions because I thought you would come with realistic propositions. In light of these circumstances and these unrealistic propositions, I see that the only solution is a bi-national state where Moslems, Christians and Jews live together […] Is our demand for 1967 borders too much for us?

Livni: I did not say it is too much for you.

Round after round of failed peace talks and a simultaneous increase in illegal Jewish settlements have left the Palestinians desperate for an alternative solution. The one-state approach has therefore evolved from a mere threat to a serious option for many Palestinians.

At the end of 2009, an internal Palestinian memo urged the PA to develop the one-state option as a “credible alternative to the traditional two-state solution”.

On October 2, 2009, during a meeting at the State Department with George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, a clearly frustrated Erekat, the chief PA negotiator, began referring to the one-state solution as a so-called BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement, should settlement construction continue in the West Bank. The US, a long-time ally of Israel, urged the Palestinians to continue direct negotiations with Israel despite the continued settlement activity.

Erekat: It is the last time for the two states. My option, the BATNA, if all this goes down, is the one state.

Mitchell: That is your decision. But the fact is that you have a president [Barack Obama] committed to this issue. […] I understand the frustration and the burden of history but please don’t let this opportunity slip by.

[later]

Mitchell: I have a 6 inch folder on my desk containing all your statements on the settlement freeze, and despite that you negotiated. Now with the first president who wants to make an effort – he’s being penalised by you.

Erekat: Not me. He has Netanyahu [Israeli prime minister]. He came to Cairo and said full freeze. We will not convert to Judaism, so if Netanyahu’s charade of two states is followed, it’s going to be one state.

Erekat’s meeting with Robert Serry, the UN special envoy to the PA, on October 13, 2009, was a clear indicator of the frustration within the Palestinian leadership:

Erekat: I told the Americans, if you take me down this process, you will do the following: you will crown Netanyahu king for years; you will doom even Sharon’s line [former prime minister]; you will kill Livni; we enter negotiations, then Bibi [Netanyahu] announces building in Jerusalem, and the negotiations collapse. I asked them for a change of approach. This time there is absolutely no force on earth that will push us down this path. I told them we have our BATNA. We will not repeat what Arafat did. We will continue to maintain security, one authority, one gun, rule of law, but we will demand equal rights in one state…

Within the same month, on October 21, Erekat repeated his threat to Mitchell to opt for the one-state solution if Israel continued to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

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.

Mitchell responded by warning Erekat that a push for a bi-national state would cause the US government to abandon its role as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Mitchell: You’ve expressed your frustration over the last 19 years. But I tell you there has never been a president on this issue like this one. You are denying him the opportunity to create the state that you want. By saying one state you are telling him to get out […].

Despite both peoples’ majority preference for separation – an Israeli state, and a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – support for the one-state option is seen to be on the rise.

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 wasone 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.

The ‘Isratine’ proposal may have seemed far-fetched at the time; however, with the recent Israeli announcements of yet more illegal settlement construction in the West Bank, and given the current status of the so-called peace process, Qadafi’s vision of a single state for Palestinians and Israelis seems ever the more imminent.

PA’s foreknowledge of the Gaza war?: Al Jazeera online

Did the PA know about the Gaza war in advance? That’s a question raised by several eexchanges in The Palestine Papers.

Did the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s leadership have foreknowledge of the Gaza war? That question is raised – though never satisfactorily answered – by several exchanges revealed in The Palestine Papers.

In defending their handling of the Gaza war, Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, has long held that the PA warned Hamas – both in Gaza and through its Syrian-based leadership – that Israel was planning an attack on Gaza.

The PA always maintained that their information was only based on Israeli press reports; however, minutes of meetings between the PA and Israeli leaders tell a different story.

The Palestine Papers show that Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian Authority negotiator, told George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, in a meeting on October 21, 2009 that Amos Gilad, the director of Israeli military intelligence, alerted Abbas prior to the Gaza attack.

Erekat: […] Our trust with the [Israeli] government is zero. Amos [Gilad] spoke to Lieberman [the Israeli foreign minister] – told them about the claim that Abu Mazen [Abbas] was colluding with them in the Gaza war. He went to Abu Mazen before the attack and asked him. Abu Mazen replied that he will not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank. Amos Gilad testified about that. He was honest. So we can maintain the channel.

The Palestine Papers confirm here what was previously revealed by second hand sources that were quoted in some of the thousands of US State Department cables published by WikiLeaks in December last year.

Among the diplomatic cables is a report from June 2009 on a conversation between Bob Casey, a US senator, Gary Ackerman, a US representative, and Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister.

In the report, the US officials said that Barak explained, that the “GOI [Government Of Israel] had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to the Gaza war, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.

“Not surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers from both,” the document states.

Confronted with these leaks, Erekat disputed Barak’s account. “We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war,” Erekat told The Associated Press news agency. But “there were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the war,” Erekat maintained.

The Palestine Papers show, however, that Gilad, who continues to serve the Israeli government as an adviser to Barak, held several conversations with PA negotiators on the situation in Gaza prior to the war.

In a post-Annapolis negotiation on March 31, 2008 with Ahmed Qurei, the former PA prime minister, Gilad and Tzipi Livni, the then-foreign minister, foreshadowed a tragedy in the making.

Livni: Israel does not want Hamas. We cannot accept to have an Islamic regime on our borders. This contradicts our strategic vision.

Gilad: My personal opinion, and I do not represent the government in this, is that sooner or later we will collide withy Hamas because they, are like Hezbollah, continue to build their military capacities. We will clash with them but we will not stay in the Gaza Strip.

Livni: The last sentence represents the position of the government.

Qurei: You said that Israel is not negotiating with Hamas, but how do you see Hamas if the situation continues as it is now?

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.

After the war, Abbas and Erekat maintained that all the information on the Israeli attack came from the media and that the attack was not discussed with the Israelis prior to the war.

“We don’t discuss these things, no,” Erekat told Al Jazeera in an interview in November 2010.

“There were plans, maps, charts published in the Israeli press and Abu Mazen met with Olmert and Olmert raised the issue of missiles from Gaza and so on, and nobody told him,” Erekat said in the interview.

Some 1400 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s three week long assault on the Gaza Strip. Many of the victims were women and children.

The Palestine Papers also show a recurring theme as to what extent the PA collaborated with Israel in its attempt to defeat Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups.

In that same series of October 2009 meetings, Erakat recounted to Mitchell his disagreements with Israel – as well as the Egyptian Government – on Gaza policy. Erakat appeared frustrated that not enough was being done to maintain the siege on the Gaza Strip.

Erekat: […] I told Amos Gilad: “You are Egypt’s man. You know the Egyptians. 11km! [Referring to the length of the Egyptian border with Gaza]. What’s going on with you and the US, the $23 million [given by the US Agency for International Development to prevent tunnels] and ditches – its business as usual in the tunnels – the Hamas economy […].”

Tony Blair criticised for ‘Israeli bias': The Guardian

Leaked papers show Palestinians feel quartet envoy is paternalistic and that the Israelis don’t take him too seriously

Tony Blair in Jenin, West Bank. Palestinians felt he advocated an ‘apartheid-like’ approach to the occupied territory. Photograph: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters
Tony Blair, envoy of the Middle East quartet, was attacked by Palestinian officials for being biased in favour of Israeli security needs and seeming “to advocate an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”, the Palestine papers reveal.

The former prime minister, appointed to the job in September 2007, made the American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem his base for efforts to boost the West Bank economy and improve Palestinian governance – key strands of the overall western strategy of backing the Palestinian Authority and shunning Hamas during negotiations with Israel.

He encountered little of the hostility he faced in Britain or the Arab world over the war in Iraq but met resistance when his initial plans for development projects were scorned for ignoring the realities of occupation and prioritising Israel’s security over Palestinian economic needs.

“The overall tone, without making any judgment as to intent, is paternalistic and frequently uses the style and jargon of the Israeli occupation authorities,” complained a memo by the PA’s negotiations support unit reviewing his proposals. “Some of the terms (eg ‘separate lanes’ and ‘tourist-friendly checkpoints’) are unacceptable to Palestinians.”

In February 2008, Blair is recorded as telling the quartet – made up of the UN, US, EU and Russia – that he has a good relationship with Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak. But he warns that the current approach to the Gaza Strip – under siege since the Hamas takeover – “is wrong and needs to change immediately”. Blair found it “discouraging” that there had been no progress since the Annapolis conference, and feared “bad consequences”. But a Russian diplomat present at the meeting “got the impression that Blair was talking like Bush’s representative”.

Blair agreed with Salam Fayyad, the PA’s prime minister, on the need to “pacify and stabilise Gaza so that it does not destabilise us: that means ceasefire, opening crossings, engaging Egypt to play a role.”

Israel needed to be encouraged to make confidence-building measures to “stabilise and improve the situation in the West Bank”. Policy and presentation were closely linked. “In order to have impact, we need radical changes and we need them to be broadcast and announced,” Blair was quoted as saying.

The papers underscore Blair’s quartet role as a high-level middleman, interceding with the Israelis to remove roadblocks, improve movement and access in the West Bank, seek approval for projects and co-ordinate with the US to press for the deployment of PA security forces. He also passed messages to the Palestinians, including concerns of Israel’s Shin Bet security service about the too-speedy release of prisoners.

But there are signs that the Israelis did not take him too seriously, while PA officials were scathing about his “offensive” language and acceptance of Israeli and US assumptions.

One draft document refers to a demand by the quartet that Israel should not bomb a project Blair is involved with. “Israel must assure it will spare site military action,” the quartet reference reads. The tone of the Palestinian response is angry: “Are they serious? We will implicitly condone criminal acts against civilian targets but please make sure you don’t harm investor interest.”

Saeb Erekat, the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s chief negotiator, suggested the British envoy was not as influential as he liked to suggest. “Tony Blair goes and says he got Israel to remove a roadblock in Jericho,” Erekat said in 2009. “It was [Israeli defence ministry official Eitan] Dangot who removed it because I asked him. It was not Blair or [US defence official Paul] Selva.”

The most striking comment from Blair, after doing the job for a few months, was that US attitudes to Israel were changing. “[There is] no longer unconditional support for Israel,” he told Fayyad. “Many asked me whether Israel was doing all it can to help; no one asked that last year. Also, bear in mind that, for the American audience, your [Palestinian] unequivocal condemnation of violence is what is critical to letting them listen to you.”

Arab and Saudi money particularly, he promised, would be more forthcoming if there were visible changes on the ground. “If you have problems in funding I can talk to some people.”

Blair offered to ask Gordon Brown to take part in an investment conference in Bethlehem, designed to showcase the potential of tourism to the West Bank economy. Brown did go and Blair lauded the event as a success.

What the Palestine papers tell us – video: The Guardian

Guardian associate editor Seumas Milne and Middle East editor, Ian Black, discuss the leak of secret notes from years of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians

East Jerusalem residents dismiss land-swap proposals: The Guardian

Palestine papers reveal concessions and divisions for Israel’s capital negotiated in effort to reach peace settlement

Rifka al-Kurd, who lost her home in 1948, says it’s not worth giving up land even for peace. Photograph: Harriet Sherwood for the Guardian
In the broad streets of Gilo, which straddles a hill overlooking Jerusalem in one direction and Bethlehem in the other, the notion that this is anything other than a benign neighbourhood of Israel’s capital is met with incredulity.

“This is part of Jerusalem even if it’s on the other side of the Green Line,” said Nissim Ohana, minding his flower shop in the fading winter sunshine. He insisted that Gilo and places like it – suburbs to some, settlements to others – would be part of Israel come any peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Fortunately for the 40,000 residents of Gilo, Palestinian negotiators appear to agree. According to minutes of the 2008 peace talks seen by the Guardian, the Palestinians were prepared to concede that all settlements in East Jerusalem bar one should be annexed to Israel. The exception was Har Homa, close to Gilo, because of its critical location blocking access between Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Ohana, 72, who lives in Har Homa and works in Gilo, dismissed the idea of even one exception. “It’s something that can’t happen. If the Israeli government thought it might, they wouldn’t be building in Har Homa. Jerusalem is ours, not theirs, and it cannot be taken apart. They have their own neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem”

His views were largely echoed by Anat Mamon, 43. “This is totally part of Jerusalem. It’s true it was captured in 1967, but I don’t relate to it as such. Jerusalem is our capital; the whole of Jerusalem belongs to Israel.”

Gilo was established in 1973 as part of what has become a ring of settlements around Jerusalem, separating the Arab east of the city from the West Bank. All settlements built on occupied or annexed land are illegal under international law. In the second intifada (uprising) about 10 years ago, the settlement came under fire from militants in the nearby Palestinian town of Beit Jala. A protective wall erected in 2002 was dismantled last year when Israeli officials concluded it was no longer necessary.

These East Jerusalem settlement blocs – home to almost 200,000 Israelis – plus those in the West Bank, in which a further 300,000 Jews live, have long been a key issue in negotiations. Palestinians say their growth is making a viable Palestinian state impossible.

As well as ceding East Jerusalem settlements, the papers show negotiators raised the possibility that Sheikh Jarrah, a mainly Arab area of East Jerusalem, could be divided between Israel and a Palestinian state. “So for an area in Sheikh Jarrah, I have to see an equivalent area,” a senior Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qurei, is recorded as saying.

Sheikh Jarrah is a flashpoint area where ideologically motivated settlers have taken over Arab houses in recent years. The idea of parts of it being ceded to Israel was met with disbelieving laughter from Izzat Gosheh, 48, the owner of a fruit and vegetable shop. “Not one of [the Palestinian negotiators] would dare say this in public because everyone would turn against them,” he said. “They cannot give up this land. Nobody can move me out of my house or exchange my house on my behalf.”

Out on the street, 31-year-old Mohammed, who declined to give his full name, was scathing. “You are asking us to divide something that belongs to us and has already been divided before. Our land is like a piece of cake, and [the Israelis] are eating it all. Tomorrow they will chase us for the spoons and forks.”

Rifka al-Kurd, 87, lost her home in the 1948 war and is now in danger of losing it again. Israeli settlers have already taken over her son’s house “and they want to kick me out of here”, she said.

Sitting in front of an afternoon TV soap opera, she was not prepared to countenance a repeat. “It’s not worth giving up land, even for peace. We have already given up our land in 1948. It was our land, they forced us away. You want us to do that again. They are chasing us wherever we go, but God will punish them for what they have done to us.”

This seemingly endless and ugly game of the peace process is now finally over: The Guardian

The peace process is a sham. Palestinians must reject their officials and rebuild their movement
Karma Nabulsi
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.

For the overwhelming majority of Palestinians, official Palestinian policy over these past decades has been the antithesis of a legitimate, or representative, or even coherent strategy to obtain our long-denied freedom. But this sober appreciation of our current state of affairs, accompanied by the mass protests and civil society campaigns by Palestinian citizens, has been insufficient, until now, to rid us of it.

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.

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.

Why has this gone on for so long and at such high cost? And why haven’t the Palestinians been able to create the democratic representation so urgently needed to advance their cause? Israel, along with those who share its worldview, would assert that the problem lies with the Palestinians themselves, being part of an Arab political culture that can only breed either authoritarian governments or terrorists. Yet what these documents reveal is the extent of undemocratic, authoritarian, colonial and, frankly, terrifying coercion the US, Britain and other western governments have been imposing upon Palestinians through this unaccountable leadership.

The unconstrained power of America, the global superpower that has (now on record and in sickening detail) taken one party’s side in this conflict, can be seen on every page. Everyone is implicated, from the president to the secretary of state, from the military generals who have created the security forces to implement these policies to the embassy staff involved in the daily execution of them. It also shows this policy is an absolute failure, bringing ruination upon the Palestinians and increasing belligerency from the completely unfettered, aggressive and erratic Israel, currently practising a form of apartheid towards the Palestinians it rules through force.

This uneven balance of power can only be successfully addressed in the same way every national liberation movement has addressed it in the past: through the unassailable strength of a popular mandate. Ho Chi Minh sitting down with the French, or Nelson Mandela negotiating with the apartheid regime embodied this popular legitimacy, and indeed drew their principles and negotiating positions from it. 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. It cuts them off from any useful mobilising methods and techniques that they might draw upon today – the democratic and collective mechanisms that are needed more than ever. They have given young people the idea that there is no virtue in collective organisation, the mechanism by which popular democratic change is made and preserved.

The increasingly popular view that the Palestinian revolution was a failure from its inception, always corrupt, driven from above and never from below, is false – but it has gained credibility through the actions of the current regime. Its behaviour has nearly erased the record of the contribution made by tens of thousands of ordinary Palestinian citizens who, through the sheer force of their devotion to public life, fought for principles and created real and democratic self-representation under the worst of conditions. It is our most valuable freedom, and one well worth fighting for: the release of these devastating documents paves the way for its restoration. 

Palestinian refugees rule out compromise on return to homeland: The Guardian

Disclosure in Palestine papers that negotiators gave up fight over refugees is greeted with disgust in Bethlehem camp

A section of Israel's separation barrier runs alongside the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/AP

In a crowded room in Aida refugee camp, Abu Khalil sipped sweet tea before listing reasons why he will never give up his right to return to his family’s pre-1948 home.

“My home, my land, my mosque, my identity, my dreams. Everything I live for. You want me to give up all these things for a state?” All Palestinians agree, he said; there can be no compromise.

Certainly in this refugee camp at the edge of Bethlehem, where boys today played football in the shadow of the huge concrete wall which cuts it off from Jerusalem, it was hard to find any dissent.

The collective memory of the Palestinian homeland, before the State of Israel was born amid anguish and bloodshed in 1948, is bequeathed like a treasured heirloom through generations. The disclosure that Palestinian negotiators were prepared to make big concessions on this, the most visceral of issues, was greeted with disgust among the refugee population.

For Amar al-Masaid, 28, history was something he lived with every day. “Our country was taken by force,” he said, amid jumbo boxes of cornflakes, tins of spam and chocolate Santa Clauses in his family’s shop. “They invaded us. They are a colonial power. We will never make any compromise. We will never sell our land. It would be better to stay with the Jews under occupation that give up our rights.”

His family had fled from Deir Aban in 1948; his father still has the deeds to the land they lost. “If you ask a little baby in these camps where their home is, they will answer you,” he said.

On cue, seven-year-old Dahoud and his sister Ranim, five, arrived to buy dried coconut, sent by their mother. Where did they come from? “Palestine,” said the boy; his sister whispered “Al-Maliha,” an Arab village south of Jerusalem until 1948, now home to a huge Israeli shopping mall and sports stadium.

According al-Masaid, the refugees live in a prison. Look around you, he said gesturing at the wall looming a couple of hundred yards away.

Nearby, 63-year-old Mousa al-Masaid, wearing a red-and-white keffiyeh, was passionately dismissive about the recent disclosures of negotiations. “I don’t care what they say on al-Jazeera,” he said. “All I care about is going back to my homeland. You want me to give up my land for peace? To hell with peace! I would rather live under the rule of monkeys than give up my land for peace.”

The Palestinian negotiators did not represent him, he said, and had no right to bargain away his homeland on his behalf.

In the view of 73-year-old Um Mahmoud, the negotiators had not sold the rights of the Palestinian people but given them away. “Whatever they give up, the Israelis give nothing in return.”

She remembered as a child being forced to flee her home near Jerusalem. “They [Jewish soldiers] came in the middle of the night, shooting at us. At first we slept in caves. I was terrified.”

From their refuge, the family could see their former home. “Every morning we were full of hope that we could go back. We still have that hope, and we put our trust in Allah.”

In Ramallah – the stronghold of the ruling party Fatah – hundreds of Palestinians today greeted their president Mahmoud Abbas, returning from a trip to Cairo, in a show of support.

“The Palestinian principles … have not and will not change and the first of them is that East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine,” Abbas told the crowd. “No one in the world can make us give up on a centimetre of our land, the issue of the refugees or the issue of Jerusalem.”

The documents published by al-Jazeera and the Guardian were fake, he said. Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian negotiator, meanwhile confirmed earlier that the documents were authentic.

In Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, called for protests over the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Thousands of Palestinians march in Gaza against PA President Abbas: Haaretz

Demonstrators hoist effigies of Abbas and other Palestinian negotiators draped with Israeli flags and chant, Go home, traitors; others hold up photos of Abbas with his face crossed out.

Several thousand Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza marched against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, calling him a traitor.

Several thousand Palestinians marched in two Gaza towns in the Wednesday protests. Demonstrators hoisted effigies of Abbas and other Palestinian negotiators draped with Israeli flags and chanted, Go home, traitors. Others held up photos of Abbas with his face crossed out.

The protests were sparked by the contested Palestine papers, roughly 1,600 documents about a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leaked by Al-Jazeera satellite TV. Al-Jazeera says the documents show Abbas made far-reaching concessions on Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, prompting Abbas’ political rival, the Islamic militant Hamas, to accuse him of selling out Palestinian rights.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar urged Palestinian refugees to protest late Monday night, following the exposure of a document stating that Palestinian negotiators had conceded on the Palestinian right of return during negotiations with Israel.

According to the document, Palestinian negotiators conceded to settle on a right of return for a total of only 100,000 out of some 5,000,000 Palestinian refugees and their families, merely a symbolic gesture as part of a peace deal.

This concession is a contradiction of the long-held demand that all Palestinians displaced by Israel’s creation in 1948 and their descendants – millions of people – return to their homes.

The papers quoted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreeing that it would be “illogical” to ask Israel to absorb 5 million refugees as part of a final peace settlement. According to Abbas, “That would mean the end of Israel.”

The Papers further stated that the Palestinian president told members of his negotiating team in March 2009 that during talks with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the two sides had agreed on a specific number of refugees that could return to Israel. He stipulated that most Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to a Palestinian state and gain citizenship.

Abbas said that Israel had suggested allowing 5,000 refugees to return over a course of five years, but that the Palestinian Authority had ruled that option out of hand and instead requested that 10,000 refugees be allowed to return every year over the course of ten years – bringing the total to 100,000.

Abbas has denied these allegations, claiming that many of the Palestine papers were fabricated, presenting Israeli positions as those of his own negotiators.

Palestine papers reveal MI6 drew up plan for crackdown on Hamas: The Guardian

• Internment and replacement of imams among measures
• Document proposed ‘direct lines’ to Israeli intelligence
• New files reveal Israel requested assassination of militant

Palestinian special guards march in front of President Mahmoud Abbas' headquarters in the West Bank Photograph: Loay Abu Haykel/Reuters

British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on the Islamist movement Hamas which became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked documents reveal. The plan asked for the internment of leaders and activists, the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques.

The disclosure of the British plan, drawn up by the intelligence service in conjunction with Whitehall officials in 2004, and passed by a Jerusalem-based MI6 officer to the senior PA security official at the time, Jibril Rajoub, is contained in the cache of confidential documents obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian. The documents also highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.

The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.

The British documents, which have been independently authenticated by the Guardian, included detailed proposals for a security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted” Palestinian Authority contacts, outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, with “direct lines” to Israel intelligence.

It lists suicide bombers and rockets as issues that need urgent attention.

Under the heading “Degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists”, the MI6 Palestinian Security Plan recommends “the detention of key middle-ranking officers” of Hamas and other armed groups, adding: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding.”

The latest leaks come as US state department spokesman Philip Crowley said they would “at least for a time, make the situation more difficult”, while the senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath acknowledged that the documents were genuine and Palestinian groups in Latin America reacted with shock to the revelation that former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice had privately suggested Palestinian refugees be settled in Chile or Argentina.

Among the newly released confidential PA documents is an extraordinary account of a 2005 meeting between Israel’s then defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, and the PA’s interior minister, Nasser Youssef.

Referring to Hassan al-Madhoun, a commander in the armed Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades who was held responsible by Israel for a suicide attack the previous year, Mofaz asked Yousef: “We know his address … Why don’t you kill him?” Yousef replied: “The environment is not easy, our capabilities are limited.” Israel killed Madhoun a few months later in a drone missile attack on his car.

The PLO’s chief spokesman, Saeb Erekat, is recorded as telling senior US official David Hale in 2009: “We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law … We have even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.”

Erekat also complained to US envoy George Mitchell in 2009 that not enough was being done to seal off tunnels from Egypt into the Gaza Strip, the documents reveal, undermining the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory, and urged that more be done by Israel and Egypt to prevent the smuggling of goods and weapons. In an echo of the proposals in the British documents, Erekat told Hale: “We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the zakat [religious charitable donations] and the sermons in the mosque.”

The papers highlight the far-reaching official British involvement in building up the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatus in the West Bank, which was led from the late 1990s by the CIA and recently has focused on the build-up of forces under General Keith Dayton, who was US security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian territories until last October.

Alistair Crooke, a former MI6 officer who also worked for the EU in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the British documents reflected a 2003 decision by Tony Blair to tie UK and EU security policy in the West Bank and Gaza to a US-led “counter-insurgency surge” against Hamas – which backfired when the Islamists won the Palestinian elections in 2006.

The PA’s security control of the West Bank has become harsher and more extensive since the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in the summer of 2007. Hundreds of Hamas and other activists have been routinely detained without trial in recent years, and subjected to widely documented human rights abuses.

In a meeting with Palestinian officials in 2009, Dayton is recorded praising the PA’s security: “The intelligence guys are good. The Israelis like them. But they are causing some problems for international donors because they are torturing people.

“I’ve only started working on this very recently. I don’t need to tell you who was working with them before,” – in an apparent reference to the CIA.

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