January 27, 2011

EDITOR: Will Erekat decide what his position is about the Palestine Papers?

On Tuesday, Erekat and Abbas called the Palestine Papers ‘a pack of lies’. Today they seem to admit it was them who were lying. Like their friends, the Israeli government, they first shout ‘a pack of lies’, then admit unwillingly they lied themselves. Today Erekat was singing another tune altogether, in his guardian piece, below. Today he had this to say about the papers:

“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.”

So, Mr. Erekat, please tell the confused readers: If the papers are a pack of lies, how are we supposed to learn all this from them? They are the ones, who, like their partners the Israelis, have told a pack of lies. What can be easily learnt from the papers, is that Erekat, Abbas and their many henchmen have lied to their own people for decades.

The Palestine Papers Part 4

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 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.

The Palestinian people betrayed: LA Times

Palestinian Israeli peace process: Leaked Palestinian documents damaging to peace process
The leaked papers published by Al Jazeera show how craven Palestinian leaders are and how willing they were to sell out their people’s rights. Yet all they had to offer wasn’t enough for Israel.
By By Saree Makdisi
A massive archive of documents leaked to Al Jazeera and Britain’s Guardian newspaper offers irrefutable proof that years of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been an empty sham. The papers make clear that the time has come for Palestinians and anyone interested in the cause of justice to abandon the charade of official diplomacy and pursue other, more creative and nonviolent paths toward the realization of a genuine, just peace.

The leaked documents, assuming they are genuine — and both Al Jazeera and the Guardian say they have authenticated them — are behind-the-scenes notes from a decade of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. On issue after issue, they show Palestinian negotiators eager to concede ground, offering to give up much of Jerusalem, to accept Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank, to collaborate with Israeli occupation forces in suppressing dissent in the occupied territories — including killing fellow Palestinians — and even to forgo the right of return for most Palestinians driven from their homes by Israel in 1948.

The papers give the lie to Israel’s claim that it yearns for peace but lacks a Palestinian “partner.” And they reinforce the sense that Israel has gone along with these negotiations only to buy time to expropriate more Palestinian land, demolish more Palestinian homes, expel more Palestinian families and build more colonies for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers in militarily occupied territory, thereby cementing new realities on the ground that would make a Palestinian state a geophysical impossibility.

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Anyone who doubts this has only to skim through the leaked papers, which show Israel spurning one gaping Palestinian concession after another. And this was Israel not under Benjamin Netanyahu but under the supposedly more liberal Ehud Olmert and his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who claimed they were committed to the peace process. In shameless abjection, the Palestinian negotiators prostrated themselves and surrendered essentially every major objective for which their people have struggled and sacrificed for 60 years, only for the imperious Israelis to say again and again, no, no, no.

Clearly, all that the Palestinians have to offer is not enough for Israel.

The major revelation from the documents, indeed, is the illustration they furnish of just how far the Palestinian negotiators were willing to go to placate Israel.

Men like Saeb Erekat, Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qurei — the lead Palestinian negotiators in all these years — are of a type that has come forth in every colonial conflict of the modern age. Faced with the overwhelming brute power with which colonial states have always sought to break the will of indigenous peoples, they inhabit the craven weakness that the situation seems to dictate. Convinced that colonialism cannot be defeated, they seek to carve out some petty managerial role within it from which they might benefit, even if at the expense of their people.

These men, we must remember, were not elected to negotiate an agreement with Israel. They have no legitimacy, offer zero credibility and can make no real claim to represent the views of Palestinians.

And yet they were apparently willing to bargain away the right that stands at the very heart of the Palestinian struggle, a right that is not theirs to surrender — the right of return of Palestinians to the homes from which they were forced during the creation of Israel in 1948 — by accepting Israel’s insistence that only a token few thousand refugees should be allowed to return, and that the millions of others should simply go away (or, as we now learn that the U.S. suggested, accept being shipped away like so much lost chattel to South America).

The documents also show Palestinian negotiators willing to betray the Palestinians inside Israel by agreeing to Israel’s definition of itself as a Jewish state, knowing that that would doom Israel’s non-Jewish Palestinian minority — the reviled “Israeli Arabs” who constitute 20% of the state’s population — not merely to the institutionalized racism they already face but to the prospect of further ethnic cleansing (the papers reveal that Livni repeatedly raised the idea that land inhabited by portions of Israel’s Palestinian population should be “transferred” to a future Palestinian state).

All this was offered in pursuit of a “state” that would exist in bits and pieces, with no true sovereignty, no control over its own borders or water or airspace — albeit a “state” that it would, naturally, be their job to run.

And all this was contemptuously turned down by the allegedly peace-seeking Israeli government, with the connivance of the United States, to whom the Palestinians kept plaintively appealing as an honest broker, even as it became clearer than ever that it is anything but.

What these documents prove is that diplomatic negotiations between abject Palestinians and recalcitrant Israelis enjoying the unlimited and unquestioning support of the U.S. will never yield peace. No agreement these callow men sign would be accepted by the Palestinian people.

Fortunately, most Palestinians are not as broken and hopeless as these so-called leaders. Every single day, millions of ordinary Palestinian men, women and children resist the dictates of Israeli power, if only by refusing to give up and go away — by going to school, by farming their crops, by tending their olive groves.

Refusing the dictates of brute power and realpolitik to which their so-called leaders have surrendered, the Palestinian people have already developed a new strategy that, turning the tables on Israel, transmutes every Israeli strength into a form of weakness. Faced with tanks, they turn to symbolic forms of protest that cannot be destroyed; faced with brutality, they demand justice; faced with apartheid, they demand equality. The Palestinians have learned the lessons of Soweto, and they have unleashed a simultaneously local and global campaign of protests and calls for boycotts and sanctions that offers the only hope of bringing Israelis — like their Afrikaner predecessors — to their senses.

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA. He is the author of, among other books, “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

EDITOR: Erekat calls the kettle black…

In between working on bringing down the Iranian regime, and preparing a birthday cake for Zippy Livni, Erekat has found the time to look for the real crminals – those who have leaked the documents to the Guardian and Al Jazeera…

Palestine papers: Erekat asks US, UK and France for help to find leaker: The Guardian

Senior Palestinian negotiator says he wants ex-British spy, US journalist and French national to appear before inquiry

Effigies with Israeli flags and images of Mahmoud Abbas are burned in a Hamas-led protest in Gaza. Photograph: Eyad Baba/AP
A senior Palestinian official today said he has asked the US, Britain and France to help bring three of their nationals for questioning about the huge leak of confidential documents relating to peace talks in the Middle East.

Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the three include a former British intelligence officer, a US employee of al-Jazeera TV and a French citizen. He said he is not accusing them of wrongdoing, but would like them to appear before an investigative committee.

Al-Jazeera this week published excerpts from what it said is a cache of hundreds of documents covering a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The Qatar-based Arab satellite station, widely watched in the Arab world, alleges that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, secretly made major concessions to Israel.

Abbas and his aides say they are victims of a smear campaign.

The leaks have intensified the bitter rivalry between Abbas and Hamas, the Islamic militant group which wrested the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian president in a violent takeover in 2007.

Yesterday, thousands marched in Gaza in Hamas-led protests, accusing Abbas of being a traitor and burning him in effigy.

Today, hundreds rallied in Gaza City, burning a photo of Abbas and raising a large picture of al-Jazeera’s benefactor, the emir of Qatar.

Salah Bardawil, a Hamas legislator, told the crowd that “those traitors and anyone who is thinking of compromising any of our rights” should be put on trial.

In the West Bank, several thousand Fatah supporters chanted slogans against al-Jazeera and in support of Abbas. They also burned photos of two senior Hamas leaders.

Erekat, who frequently meets with Israeli and US officials, features in many of the documents. Palestinian officials have said they believe the documents were leaked by someone in a department he heads, the negotiations support unit.

Erekat told the Associated Press today that the investigation into the leaks is still continuing.

Erekat said he has tried to contact the US citizen, but to no avail. “I am not accusing him of anything. We want to investigate him,” he said, adding that he had contacted US diplomats for assistance.

Al-Jazeera officials have been unavailable for comment throughout the week. The French national declined comment when contacted by AP, and the former British intelligence officer said he might discuss the issue at a later time.

Many of the leaked documents detail 2008 negotiations between Abbas and Israel’s leader at the time, Ehud Olmert. Those talks were cut short by Israel’s three-week war on Hamas-ruled Gaza, launched in late 2008, and mounting corruption allegations against Olmert that eventually forced him out of office.

Palestinian ambassador to UK’s office taken over by protesters: The Guardian

Palestinian students hold peaceful sit-in at Hammersmith office of general delegation to Britain over negotiations with Israel

The offices of the Palestinian ambassador to the UK have been occupied by a group of students who are demanding new Palestinian national council elections.

At 1pm today, around a dozen Palestinian students from a number of British universities arrived at the Palestinian general delegation to the UK in Hammersmith, west London.

Although they had made an appointment to see the ambassador, Professor Manuel Hassassian, they arrived in large numbers and with computers and banners.

A spokesman for the students said they had been moved to stage a peaceful sit-in by the release of leaked Palestinian papers over the last few days.

“The documents confirmed what we had known all along — that they are out of touch with the people,” the spokesman said.

As well as calling for new elections, the students — from Oxford, SOAS, LSE, City and Westminster universities — are demanding a more inclusive political process that reflects and engages all Palestinians.

“We are ready to stay as long as necessary until our message has been received and understood,” he said.

The ambassador, whose office has been occupied, has asked the students to leave the room but has told them they are welcome to remain in the building.

“They told me they wanted to hold a sit-in in my office. I told them: ‘You’re welcome. This is your embassy. This is your home’,” he said.

Hassassian also said he had agreed to pass their demands on to the Palestinian government, but needed his office back if he was to relay them.

“We are being very hospitable and we hope that they respect our hospitality,” he said.

Two Metropolitan police officers entered the embassy a little after 4pm, and chatted to the ambassador and protesters.

General Union of Palestinian Students’ (GUPS) Campaign for direct elections to the Palestine National Council (PNC)

We, Palestinian youth of the General Union of Palestinian students, gather here today in honour of the integral part our union has played in the struggle for liberation. Since its official foundation more than five decades ago, GUPS has been at the forefront of mobilising our people and regenerating our commitment to Palestine, especially in times of national danger and depletion. We are at the office of the PLO delegation to the United Kingdom in order to reassert our inalienable rights, and today we claim our right to democratically participate in the shaping of our destiny. We begin a national initiative to campaign for direct elections to the Palestinian National Council on the clear understanding that only a reformed national representative institution, that includes the will of all Palestinians, those struggling in the homeland and those struggling in exile, can create a representative Palestinian platform, and restore the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

In the spirit of national unity that bring us here today, we remind Palestinian youth everywhere of the National Reconciliation Document of the Prisoners of 2006, issued from the Occupier’s prisons from the leaders of all political parties. Its second point of national unity urgently calls for the reactivation of the PLO through its democratic mechanisms, enfranchising all Palestinians, the millions of refugees in exile, and those inside. We are all Palestinian citizens, we all have the right to vote. We declare here that we insist upon this right to form our national institutions.

We announce, in the spirit of national unity that brought us here, and with the aim of leaving behind factionalism in order to liberate our homeland and return to our homes:

1.The call for direct elections to the Palestine National Council, the parliamentary body that gives authority to and creates the political platform, strategies and policies, for the Palestine Liberation Organisation, to be held one year from this day, in January, 2011.
2. The inclusion of all our people wherever they now live – in the homeland, the shatat, in the prisons, and the camps of refuge in that election.
3. That this new representative body, reflective of all sectors of our people, reform and reactivate the PLO institutions so that they embody the will of the Palestinian people as a whole, in accordance with the principle of direct elections.

We urge all Palestinians at this critical moment to join our call for representation, and to take up our historic responsibility in the struggle for liberation, only on the basis of popular sovereignty. We begin the campaign through our national institutions and our associations, in the spirit of our united love of our homeland and the principles that bind us, to restore our PLO as the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people.

January 27th, 2011.

The Palestine Papers and the “Gaza coup”: The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah, 27 January 2011

Palestinians demonstrate in support of national unity in Gaza City, July 2009. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

It has long been known that following Hamas’ victory in Palestinian Authority legislative elections in January 2006, Israel and its allies, particularly the United States, worked to undermine the Hamas-led government. Their aim was to restore the authority of the Fatah movement led by Mahmoud Abbas, which had controlled the PA since it was created in 1994 after the Oslo accords were signed the previous year.

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.

Two documents in the Palestine Papers contain minutes of these meetings. The first is dated 11 March 2007 and titled “Quadripartite Meeting of the Gaza Security Committee.”

The Palestinians in attendance were Dahlan, Jamal Quaeid, Rashid Abu Shbak, Basil Jaber and one more whose name has been redacted by Al Jazeera. The American team was headed by US Army Lt. General Keith Dayton, the Israeli team by General Amos Gilad and the Egyptian team by one General Sharif.

This first meeting was intended to establish the “quadirpartite forum” and lay down “rules of engagement.” Firstly it was agreed that only Gaza would be discussed, not the West Bank.

Secrecy was to be the top priority. According to the rules of engagement, “All parties made very clear that nothing discussed in the meeting should be shared with anyone outside the forum. All parties made clear that any leakages would greatly hurt the forum and all those participating. All parties made clear that any leakages would immediately result in the cessation of the use of this forum and the projects being aborted. Also not to be shared is the fact that the forum exists, nor should who is attending the meetings be leaked. The press will not be involved.”

The minutes also note that “The forum is backed by the highest political echelons of each government represented.” In terms of substance, the record notes that “The implications of the national unity government were discussed by all parties in general terms.”

The Israeli team then presented their “perception of the security situation in Gaza, focusing on Hamas activities.” The Israelis, according to the minutes, “highlighted the use of tunnels for all purposes including storage and meeting areas, the import/smuggling of advanced weaponry.” The Israeli team alleged that Hamas fighters were being trained in Iran and that Hamas was attempting to “emulate the Hizballah model, which in turn is based on the Iranian model.” The Israelis asserted that “The main strategic goal of Hamas is to take over the PA then the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization]. Most Palestinians do not adhere to this Hamas ideology.”

Referring to these and other Israeli positions, the minutes note that “The Palestinians agreed that this may be part of the analysis” — an indication of complete agreement that Hamas was the common enemy.

The second “Quadripartite Security Meeting,” held on 3 April 2007, focused on the political situation and stopping the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. Lt. General Dayton observed that “The purpose of these efforts is to prevent Hamas from using the NUG [National Unity Government] as a means of gaining more powers and building up more arms.”

He also advised the Palestinians: “If you can keep Hamas from overwhelming the PLO forces, and keep Fatah together, until Hamas is no longer an attractive option — you prevent it from winning militarily until the next elections.” Dayton clearly saw his role as preparing Fatah for military confrontation with Hamas.

During a discussion of Egypt’s role, Israeli General Amos Gilad had high praise for Egypt’s repressive state security services. “I always believed in the abilities of the Egyptian Intelligence service [GIS],” he said. “It keeps order and security among 70 millions — 20 millions in one city — this is a great achievement, for which you deserve a medal. It is the best asset for the middle east.”

The Palestinian team gave a PowerPoint presentation of its plans to destroy the Gaza tunnels which included suggestions to destroy Palestinian homes near the border wall — as Israel had previously done. At one point Dayton asked Palestinian officer Rashid Abu Shbak “When Israel tells you about a tunnel, what do you do?” Abu Shbak replied, “In the past there was a good level of cooperation. But recently it is inadequate. Despite that, we deal seriously with every information they give us.”

Overall, many documents among the Palestine Papers indicate a deep “security” relationship — even codependency — between Israel, the occupying power, and the Palestinian Authority, supposedly representing the occupied. The “Quadripartite” forum sheds new light on the joint effort to overthrow the Hamas-led national unity government.

Yet there also appear to be notable gaps in the Palestine Papers. Hamas routed the US-backed PA forces in Gaza between 7-14 June 2007. The minutes and documents immediately before, during and after that period are curiously silent about the momentous events in Gaza. It is difficult to believe that the Hamas takeover would not have been the primary concern of all the actors so this absence suggests that whoever leaked the documents to Al Jazeera has been careful to hold back some material.

There do not appear to be any other records of the Quadripartite Forum. Is this because the meetings ceased or because no more minutes were leaked? Is it because amid the disarray Dahlan and Abu Shbak fled from Gaza to the West Bank and were discredited?

As revealing as the Palestine Papers are, clearly there is still much we don’t know. But one thing is certain: the divide and rule tactics used by outside powers, and the willingness of some Palestinians to go along with them, have been debilitating to the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and is a contributor to The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict (Nation Books). Ali Abunimah was been given special access to the Palestine Papers and has helped analyze them for Al Jazeera.

Tony Blair criticised for ‘Israeli bias’: The Guardian

Tony Blair in Jenin, West Bank. Palestinians felt he advocated an 'apartheid-like' approach to the occupied territory. Photograph: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters

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.

Erekat “told Amr Moussa to behave”: Al Jazeera online

PA is bluntly critical of many Arab states, particularly Egyptian efforts to broker a deal between Hamas and Fatah.
Amira Howeidy, 26 Jan 2011
Despite the support of the vast majority of Arab states to the Palestinian Authority, especially in its rivalry with Hamas, The Palestine Papers reveal many instances where the Palestinians are strongly critical of Arab governments. A lot of the denunciation is surprisingly directed at Egypt more so than Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Palestinians are also quoted objecting to Arab reconciliation efforts.

In the minutes that were leaked to Al Jazeera, all the complaining of -even incitement against- the Arabs is voiced to the Americans.

The highlight of this resentment was the fallout in the aftermath of the PA’s decision in October 2009 to defer a vote by the United Nations Human Rights Council to refer the Goldstone report on the war in Gaza (which accuses Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes) to the UN General Assembly. The deferral provoked such an uproar that PA chairman Mahmoud Abass was forced to retract the Palestinian position and have the UNHCR hold a special meeting to endorse the report, which was then referred to the UN General Assembly in November 2009. But the damage the PA had done to its image was irreversible. The Arabs weren’t supportive.

According to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit told him “candidly in public” that “Goldstone finished you. You’re finished,” as documented in the minutes. A frustrated Erekat complains bitterly about this twice on 20 October 2009 to US envoy George Mitchel, then in another meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And a third time the following day to US national security advisor James Jones.

In the same meeting with Mitchel, Erekat presents the situation in Egypt at that time as hostile to the PA, given the “power” of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and satellite channels directed at them, and concluded: “it’s a parallel government in Egypt. You need to speak to the Arabs about that.”

He blames Mitchell for doing “nothing” about Qatar who’s prince, he says, “personally” calls Arab intellectuals “telling them to attack Abass.” Erekat alludes this to what he thinks is Abass’s refusal to move the Cairo-sponsored Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks to Doha. “Your ally is conducing a personal campaign against it,” he tells Mitchell.

The minutes quote Erekat, in a meeting with Mitchell (October 20, 2009), referring to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah’s relations with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal with discernable cynicism.

Erekat’s frustration with the Saudis explains itself better in the minutes of his meeting with Jones and national security council special assistant to the president Dennis Ross on 21 October 2009. Although Riyadh supports and provides funding for the PA, it appears from the minutes that it was only with the “help” of the Americans that the Palestinians got $200 million from the Saudis at that time. Saudi Arabia, it seems, wasn’t giving the PA the kind of treatment it expected, probably a sense of superiority over Hamas. Says Erekat “the Saudis are too busy equating us with Hamas,” referring to Riyadh’s balanced relations with both Fatah and the Islamic resistance movement.

He adds that while the Saudis are “also crucial…With Iran, Hizbullah, Syria – jumping around the region. They are doing nothing” and that Abbas is “doing Saudi Arabia’s job.”

“The region is slipping away like sand our hands,” Erekat concludes.

So when Jones replies in agreement, Erekat suggests that they put “together” a “matrix of interests” to see where “we” stand, meaning the Palestinians and the Americans. Here he raises an issue that is surprisingly a source of concern for him: “there’s a pattern of Arab reconciliation,” referring to meetings between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria which began in Riyadh, March 2009, followed by an Arab League meeting in Doha, April, which emphasized inter-Arab rapprochement.

“We pay the price. The pattern must stop,” Erekat declares.

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.

So when Turkey hosted and mediated indirect talks between Syria and Israel in the summer of 2008, Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei protested to the Americans. The minutes quote him tell US national security advisor Stephen Hadley on 29 July 2008 that if Israel thinks peace with Syria is “less costly then they are wrong.”

More revealing is the recurrence of Palestinian criticism of Egypt in the Palestine Papers which focuses largely on Cairo’s inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

In October 2009 Egypt presented the ‘National Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement.’ The agreement outlined the formation of a national unity government and the restructuring of the security apparatuses based in Gaza and the West Bank which practically gave Abass the upper hand in security control. It also criminalized the use of weapons in any form of activity that’s not strictly within the role of the security apparatus, i.e. resistance operations. What irked the PA so much however, was that the agreement suggested the formation of a committee that included both Hamas and Islamic Jihad among other factions to “run” Gaza under the political umbrella of Abbas until presidential elections are held in January 2010. Although the committee has no political obligations, it gave Hamas and Jihad legitimacy in Gaza.

In minutes of a meeting between Erekat and Mitchell on 2 October 2009, Erekat informs the US envoy that Abass will meet Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in three days. He warns him that Abass “won’t say no to whatever” the Egyptians offer him. And demanded that the Americans should call the Egyptians and “make sure that whatever they put in the paper won’t result in the return of the siege.”

Erekat had not yet seen the Egyptian agreement, but by “siege” he was alluding to the possibility that the paper would result in a national unity government that includes Hamas and jeopardize foreign funding. Following the formation of a Hamas majority government in 2006, Israel and the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and the UN) imposed economic sanctions against the Palestinians. The sanctions were lifted only after the fallout between Fatah and Hamas and the latter’s takeover of Gaza in June 2007.

Erekat thus tells Mitchell: “We don’t want any surprises… Just make sure that you see the material before they present it,” Hamas, he adds “can’t be back in the West Bank.”

In another meeting on 21 October 2009 Erekat tells Jones and Ross they “should” tell Egypt next time they have a paper, they must share it with the Americans and “your legal adviser has to review it.” To which Ross replies, “I can tell you we did put pressure on the Egyptians. I read the document (on reconciliation) it’s a disaster. We were blunt…”

Not only do the minutes exhibit mistrust of the Egyptians, Erekat’s words betray a language of defiance. In the same meeting he says “I hope the Egyptians see us now in action. We didn’t want to let them off the hook.”

In other minutes, the Palestinians bluntly say they don’t trust Cairo. “Egypt is allowing the tunnels to continue” Erekat tells Keith Dayton (24 June 2007). Then in an email document on 3 February 2008, Erekat is quoted saying that Abbas’s chief of staff, Rafiq Al-Hussaini is “not very confident” on “trusting every single world that the Egyptians are saying, especially when it comes to Hamas” regarding their control of the Rafah border crossing.

Hamas might be the PA’s arch nemesis and some Arab states untrustworthy or have “bad blood” (January 17, 2008 ) with the Palestinians, but in the minutes, it is Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa who gets the lion share of denigration. “I told Amr Moussa to behave well,” Erekat tells US State Department official David Welch (December 2, 2008) after Moussa attacked all the Palestinian parties –including the PA- in a ministerial meeting at the Arab League in September 2008.

“I told him there are millions of dollars turned around from Gaza in the past, and the people are starving there, if you want me to tell Al-Jazeera. So he decided to behave well.”

Amira Howeidy has been an Egyptian journalist since 1992. She has published extensively on Palestinian rights, human rights, civil liberties, Egypt’s domestic scene and dissent movements. Amira is currently assistant editor-in-chief of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Weekly Newspaper and is the Cairo correspondent of the Lebanese daily Assafir. She co-authored a book on Informal Settlements in Greater Cairo and co-produced the award-winning documentary Geuvara ‘ash (Geuvra lives) in 2009.

PA negotiator: U.S., British citizens are responsible for leaking Palestine papers: Haaretz

Erekat claims that a U.S. citizen, who currently works for Al-Jazeera, and a British citizen, a former MI6 and EU official, leaked the secret Mideast documents.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Wednesday in an interview with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television that a U.S. citizen, who worked in the U.S. State Department, and a British citizen, a former MI6 and EU official, are the ones responsible for leaking the so-called ‘Palestine papers.’

Erekat said the secret Mideast documents were leaked by U.S. citizen Clayton Swisher, who currently works at Al-Jazeera as a reporter, and used to serve as a bodyguard in the U.S. State Department during the Clinton administration.
The second person Erekat blamed for the leak is British citizen Alastair Crooke, who was a ranking figure in the British intelligence (MI6) as well as an adviser to the European Union’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. Crooke is considered close to officials in Hamas.

Al-Jazeera recently began leaking 1,600 secret documents on Middle East negotiations, which reveal many significant concessions made by the Palestinian Authority in the past years, mostly documents signed by Erekat.

In contrast to earlier publications in the Palestinian media, Erekat told Haaretz that Swisher had never worked in his office, and said that if the documents were leaked from his office then he would take responsibility for them. Meanwhile, he told Haaretz that he has demanded that the U.S. State Department investigate Swisher to find out the source of the leak.

On Tuesday, Erekat accused Al Jazeera television of putting his life in danger with “a vicious smear campaign” alleging he made major concessions in peace talks with Israel.

Erekat said the Qatar-based network had misrepresented quotes and made up others in covering “The Palestine Papers.”

“What Al Jazeera people are doing is asking Palestinians to shoot me, physically. That’s what they are doing. They are saying: ‘You are guilty and thus you should be executed’,” said Erekat, for years a central figure in the peace talks.

“Speaking for me and my family, they are inciting against our lives,” he told Reuters in an interview at his office in the West Bank city of Jericho.

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