Why I blew the whistle about Palestine | Ziyad Clot

Israel’s attack on Gaza and the disastrous ‘peace talks’ compelled me to leak what I knew

In Palestine, the time has come for national reconciliation. On the eve of the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba – the uprooting of Palestinians that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948 – this is a long-awaited and hopeful moment. Earlier this year the release by al-Jazeera and the Guardian of 1,600 documents related to the so-called peace process caused deep consternation among Palestinians and in the Arab world. Covering more than 10 years of talks (from 1999 to 2010) between Israel and the PLO, the Palestine papers illustrated the tragic consequences of an inequitable and destructive political process which had been based on the assumption that the Palestinians could in effect negotiate their rights and achieve self-determination while enduring the hardship of the Israeli occupation.

My name has been circulated as one of the possible sources of these leaks. I would like to clarify here the extent of my involvement in these revelations and explain my motives. I have always acted in the best interest of the Palestinian people, in its entirety, and to the full extent of my capacity.

My own experience with the “peace process” started in Ramallah, in January 2008, after I was recruited as an adviser for the negotiation support unit (NSU) of the PLO, specifically in charge of the Palestinian refugee file. That was a few weeks after a goal had been set at the Annapolis conference: the creation of the Palestinian state by the end of 2008. Only 11 months into my job, in November of that year, I resigned. By December 2008, instead of the establishment of a state in Palestine, I witnessed on TV the killing of more than 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli army.

My strong motives for leaving my position with the NSU and my assessment of the “peace process” were clearly detailed to Palestinian negotiators in my resignation letter dated of 9th November 2008.

The “peace negotiations” were a deceptive farce whereby biased terms were unilaterally imposed by Israel and systematically endorsed by the US and EU. Far from enabling a negotiated and fair end to the conflict, the pursuit of the Oslo process deepened Israeli segregationist policies and justified the tightening of the security control imposed on the Palestinian population, as well as its geographical fragmentation. Far from preserving the land on which to build a state, it has tolerated the intensification of the colonisation of the Palestinian territory. Far from maintaining a national cohesion, the process I participated in, albeit briefly, was instrumental in creating and aggravating divisions among Palestinians. In its most recent developments, it became a cruel enterprise from which the Palestinians of Gaza have suffered the most. Last but not least, these negotiations excluded for the most part the great majority of the Palestinian people: the seven million Palestinian refugees. My experience over those 11 months in Ramallah confirmed that the PLO, given its structure, was not in a position to represent all Palestinian rights and interests.

Tragically, the Palestinians were left uninformed of the fate of their individual and collective rights in the negotiations, and their divided political leaderships were not held accountable for their decisions or inaction. After I resigned, I believed I had a duty to inform the public.

Shortly after the Gaza war I started to write about my experience in Ramallah. In my 2010 book, Il n’y aura pas d’Etat Palestinien (There will be no Palestinian State), I concluded: “The peace process is a spectacle, a farce, played to the detriment of Palestinian reconciliation, at the cost of the bloodshed in Gaza.” In full conscience, and acting independently, I later agreed to share some information with al-Jazeera specifically with regard to the fate of Palestinian refugee rights in the 2008 talks. Other sources did the same, although I am unaware of their identity. Taking these tragic developments of the “peace process” to a wider Arab and western audience was justified because it was in the public interest of the Palestinian people. I had – and still have – no doubt that I had a moral, legal and political obligation to proceed accordingly.

Today, I am relieved that this first-hand information is available to Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory, in Israel and in exile. In a way, Palestinian rights are back in their holders’ possession and the people are now in a position to make enlightened decisions about the future of their struggle. I am also glad that international stakeholders to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can access these documents. The world can no longer overlook that while Palestinians’ strong commitment to peace is genuine, the fruitless pursuit of a “peace process” framed according to the exclusive conditions of the occupying power leads to compromises which would be unacceptable in any other region of the globe.

Finally, I feel reassured that the people of Palestine overwhelmingly realise that the reconciliation between all their constituents must be the first step towards national liberation. The Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians in Israel and the Palestinians living in exile have a common future. The path to Palestinian self-determination will require the participation of all in a renewed political platform.

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Why I blew the whistle about Palestine | Ziyad Clot

Israel’s attack on Gaza and the disastrous ‘peace talks’ compelled me to leak what I knew

In Palestine, the time has come for national reconciliation. On the eve of the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba – the uprooting of Palestinians that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948 – this is a long-awaited and hopeful moment. Earlier this year the release by al-Jazeera and the Guardian of 1,600 documents related to the so-called peace process caused deep consternation among Palestinians and in the Arab world. Covering more than 10 years of talks (from 1999 to 2010) between Israel and the PLO, the Palestine papers illustrated the tragic consequences of an inequitable and destructive political process which had been based on the assumption that the Palestinians could in effect negotiate their rights and achieve self-determination while enduring the hardship of the Israeli occupation.

My name has been circulated as one of the possible sources of these leaks. I would like to clarify here the extent of my involvement in these revelations and explain my motives. I have always acted in the best interest of the Palestinian people, in its entirety, and to the full extent of my capacity.

My own experience with the “peace process” started in Ramallah, in January 2008, after I was recruited as an adviser for the negotiation support unit (NSU) of the PLO, specifically in charge of the Palestinian refugee file. That was a few weeks after a goal had been set at the Annapolis conference: the creation of the Palestinian state by the end of 2008. Only 11 months into my job, in November of that year, I resigned. By December 2008, instead of the establishment of a state in Palestine, I witnessed on TV the killing of more than 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli army.

My strong motives for leaving my position with the NSU and my assessment of the “peace process” were clearly detailed to Palestinian negotiators in my resignation letter dated of 9th November 2008.

The “peace negotiations” were a deceptive farce whereby biased terms were unilaterally imposed by Israel and systematically endorsed by the US and EU. Far from enabling a negotiated and fair end to the conflict, the pursuit of the Oslo process deepened Israeli segregationist policies and justified the tightening of the security control imposed on the Palestinian population, as well as its geographical fragmentation. Far from preserving the land on which to build a state, it has tolerated the intensification of the colonisation of the Palestinian territory. Far from maintaining a national cohesion, the process I participated in, albeit briefly, was instrumental in creating and aggravating divisions among Palestinians. In its most recent developments, it became a cruel enterprise from which the Palestinians of Gaza have suffered the most. Last but not least, these negotiations excluded for the most part the great majority of the Palestinian people: the seven million Palestinian refugees. My experience over those 11 months in Ramallah confirmed that the PLO, given its structure, was not in a position to represent all Palestinian rights and interests.

Tragically, the Palestinians were left uninformed of the fate of their individual and collective rights in the negotiations, and their divided political leaderships were not held accountable for their decisions or inaction. After I resigned, I believed I had a duty to inform the public.

Shortly after the Gaza war I started to write about my experience in Ramallah. In my 2010 book, Il n’y aura pas d’Etat Palestinien (There will be no Palestinian State), I concluded: “The peace process is a spectacle, a farce, played to the detriment of Palestinian reconciliation, at the cost of the bloodshed in Gaza.” In full conscience, and acting independently, I later agreed to share some information with al-Jazeera specifically with regard to the fate of Palestinian refugee rights in the 2008 talks. Other sources did the same, although I am unaware of their identity. Taking these tragic developments of the “peace process” to a wider Arab and western audience was justified because it was in the public interest of the Palestinian people. I had – and still have – no doubt that I had a moral, legal and political obligation to proceed accordingly.

Today, I am relieved that this first-hand information is available to Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory, in Israel and in exile. In a way, Palestinian rights are back in their holders’ possession and the people are now in a position to make enlightened decisions about the future of their struggle. I am also glad that international stakeholders to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can access these documents. The world can no longer overlook that while Palestinians’ strong commitment to peace is genuine, the fruitless pursuit of a “peace process” framed according to the exclusive conditions of the occupying power leads to compromises which would be unacceptable in any other region of the globe.

Finally, I feel reassured that the people of Palestine overwhelmingly realise that the reconciliation between all their constituents must be the first step towards national liberation. The Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians in Israel and the Palestinians living in exile have a common future. The path to Palestinian self-determination will require the participation of all in a renewed political platform.

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Palestinian negotiators must not take key decisions on our behalf | Haneen Zoabi

We Palestinians in Israel will not stand for our rights being given away by so-called representatives

Had the offer made by “representatives” of the Palestinian people to Israel during peace negotiations – revealed this week in the Palestine papers – been accepted, the resulting agreement would have been in conflict with international law. It would also have had a profound impact on all Palestinians: not only those under occupation or refugees in the diaspora, but also Palestinians like myself – the 1.2 million of us who make up 18% of the population of Israel.

First, giving up the refugees’ right of return – as was apparently accepted by the Palestinian negotiators – would mean giving up the demand for the reunification of Palestinian families divided by the nakba, our expulsion from Israel in 1948. At this time some Palestinians remained in Israel, while others were displaced. Israel has since refused to allow hundreds of divided families to be reunited.

Furthermore, Israel currently prevents one Palestinian from marrying another from Gaza, the West Bank, Syria or Lebanon and remaining within the borders of Israel, on the pretext of preventing the right of return. So I, for example, can marry a British citizen and live in Nazareth but cannot do the same with a Palestinian who does not hold Israeli nationality.

Second, the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state – which was also apparently accepted by the negotiator Saeb Erekat – would delegitimise the citizenship of Palestinians in Israel. In practice, Israel has acted as a Jewish state since its founding, and undermined the rights of Palestinian citizens for more than 60 years, with chronic, institutionalised discrimination. International recognition of Israel as a Jewish state would give this discrimination a legal and ethical justification. Arab Israeli citizenship would become conditional, and the inferior status of Palestinian citizens and residents as non-Jews, and thus by definition excluded outsiders, would become entrenched. Indeed, it would call into question their very future in such a state, their homeland.

Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state by concerned international parties would serve to legitimise the series of racist laws and bills currently before the Knesset, and would turn the legal, political struggle of the Palestinian national minority into an illegal and illegitimate struggle – a move that would be fatal to democracy. It would become far easier to criminalise any party, individual or action that sought the establishment of genuine democracy and equality. Ultimately, it would effectively block the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Israel should be a democratic state, not an ethnic state.

Third, we reject the proposed exchange of populations between Israel and the West Bank, championed, among others, by Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. This proposal has increasingly pervaded Israel’s political culture. According to a recent poll, 53% of the Jewish Israeli public believes that the state is entitled to encourage Palestinian citizens to emigrate. Making our citizenship a subject of negotiations would send out the clear and dangerous message that it is temporary, and open to question. As with residents of the occupied Palestinian territory – whose temporary legal status has become permanent, after 43 years of Israeli occupation – making Palestinian citizenship in Israel temporary totally ignores the basic fact that we are indigenous people living in our homeland, not an immigrant minority.

Moreover, raising this question now carries particular dangers, given the politics of hatred and persecution towards the Palestinian minority. When a letter was published by a group of publicly funded rabbis calling on Israeli Jews not to rent flats and houses to Palestinians, the Israeli political leadership took no practical action against them. A further poll found that 46% of the Jewish public would not want to live next to Arabs.

It has been clearly established by the international community that any decisions that have a direct impact on the future status of a national minority must be taken after full consultation, and with their consent – including through a referendum. We therefore reject any proposal that would involve other parties taking such decisions on our behalf.

We, as Palestinian people living inside Israel and on the basis of our historic right and international law, have full right of veto – not only on matters that affect our lives, such as the return of the refugees, the Jewish identity of the state and population exchange, but also on all matters affecting and infringing the rights of the Palestinian people.

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Europe’s failure on Middle East peace | Alastair Crook

Attempts to reconcile policy contradictions have prevented the EU from mounting an alternative foreign policy to that of the US

Many have questioned why the European Union failed to provide an independent view to that of the United States on Middle East policy during the last decade. It is not a simple question to answer. Partly, the EU failed to assert its voice because, at the beginning of the decade, it was scrambling to contain the impact of inflating US hubris, fuelled by the defeat of Saddam Hussein. Partly, it was also a simple reflection of most European politicians’ dependency on Washington. But the release of the Palestine Papers provides another answer.

They show how Tony Blair in particular had so undercut the political space that there was effectively no room for it. In a secret policy switch in 2003, he tied the UK and EU security policy into a major American counter-insurgency (Coin) “surge” in Palestine.

It was an initiative that would bear a heavy political cost for the EU in 2006, and for years to come, when Hamas won parliamentary elections by a large majority. The EU’s claims for democracy have rung hollow ever since. Blair’s “surge” also left the EU exposed as hypocrites: on a political level, for example, the EU might talk about its policy of fostering reconciliation between Palestinian factions, but at the security plane, and in other ways, it was pursuing the polar opposite objectives.

In 2003, US efforts to marginalise Yasser Arafat by leeching away his presidential powers into the embrace of the prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, collapsed. Arafat dismissed Abbas as PM. This was a blow to the US policy which – even then – was focused on creating a “de-Fatah-ised” Palestinian Authority. George Bush complained to Blair bitterly about Abbas’s dismissal: the Europeans still were “dancing around Arafat” – leaving the US to “do the heavy lifting” with the Israelis. Europeans were not pulling their weight in the “war on terror”, Bush concluded.

Blair’s Coin surge was his response to Bush. The Palestine Papers reveal “a security drive” with the objective of

“degrading the capabilities of the rejectionists: Hamas, PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad], and the al-Aqsa Brigades – through the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities, the detention of key middle-ranking officers, and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources held within the occupied territories. US and – informally – UK monitors would report both to Israel and to the Quartet. We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures.”

The papers also show how the project ballooned: a huge investment in training and infrastructure of the security services, building prisons to accommodate the possible introduction of internment for Hamas members, the establishment of the Dayton military battalions to confront Hamas, the planning to depose Hamas in Gaza, the targeted assassination of Hamas leaders. Even the international Quartet was engaged to work with Arab states’ intelligence services in order to disrupt Hamas’s sources of financing.

The “surge” sucked in everything: aid, economic assistance, institution-building – all were reoriented towards the counter-insurgency project. Ultimately, the Palestinian state-building project, and the Coin surge, were to become one.

Against this counter-insurgency background it is not surprising that Hamas’s victory in the 2006 polls only prompted a further increase in European “off-balance sheet” assistance to the EU/US-made security sector. At a political level the Europeans were attempting to keep an independent voice, the Palestine Papers show, when EU envoy Marc Otte spoke with Saeb Erekat two months after the Hamas election.

Otte: EU has to deal with the reality of a Hamas-led government … In this respect, EU position is different from the US.
Erekat: How is this position different?
Otte: US wants to see a Hamas government fail. The EU will encourage Hamas to change and will try to make things work as much as possible.

Inevitably, the EU’s actions spoke louder than Otte’s words. The EU had endorsed the Quartet conditions for engagement with Hamas – conditions that the UN representative at the time told the UN secretary general were hurdles raised precisely in order to prevent Hamas from meeting them, rather than as guidelines intended to open the path for diplomatic solutions. Soon after, British and American intelligence services were preparing a “soft” coup to remove Hamas from power in Gaza.

EU standing in the region has suffered from the contradiction of maintaining one line in public, while its security policies were facing in another direction entirely. Thus, we have the EU “talking the talk” of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas while “walking the walk” of disruption, detention, seizing finances, and destroying the capabilities of one of the two factions.

Thus we have EU “talking the talk” of aid for Palestinians, while “walking the walk” of tying that aid to the objectives of the US security project; we have the EU “talking the talk” of Palestinian state-building, while Palestinian institutions are dispersed to external control; we have the EU “talking the talk” of democracy, while it colludes with a system of government exercised through unaccountable decree, and parliament is prevented from exercising any function.

This catalogue of attempts to reconcile an internal policy contradiction has pre-empted the EU from mounting any effective foreign policy alternative to that of the US on the “peace process”, and has eaten away its standing in the region. The legacy of Blair’s 2003 surge has been a highly costly one, as the Palestine Papers well illustrate.

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Blair says leak of Palestine papers ‘destabilising’ for peace process

Former prime minister, now Middle East peace envoy, says intention of leak ‘was to be extremely damaging’

Tony Blair today accused those responsible for the leak of vast numbers of papers about talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis of wanting to seriously damage the peace process.

The former prime minister – now a Middle East peace envoy – said the release of the confidential documents prepared by Palestinian negotiators had been “destablising”.

But, in an interview on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, he urged the Palestinians to ignore the damage caused and press ahead with the drive for peace.

Thousands of pages of Palestinian documents covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US were obtained by al-Jazeera television and shared exclusively with the Guardian.

The papers revealed that Palestinian negotiators were willing to go much further in offering concessions than their people realised.

Asked how much damage the leaks had caused, Blair told Today: “I think it’s hard to tell right now, but its intention was to be extremely damaging.

“I think, amongst Palestinians, it is slightly less hyper than it is elsewhere in the region. Most people, when they sit back and think about it, you would expect people to be negotiating, to be putting forward positions, taking them back.”

Blair said he knew from his experience in Northern Ireland how damaging leaks of this kind could be.

“We could not have done the Northern Ireland peace process if, the entire time, [information] was being put out there with a pretty severe spin on it. So I think it is destabilising for the Palestinians,” he added.

But he also said the Palestinians should not let the leak undermine the peace process. “I think we’ve just got to be big enough and strong enough to say, OK, whatever al-Jazeera are putting out, we’re going to get on with making peace,” he said.

In the interview, Blair also said Egypt should “evolve and modernise”, but in a way that ensured stability.

“The challenges have been the same for these countries for a long period of time,” he added. “The question is how they evolve and modernise, but do so with stability. The danger is [that] if you open up a vacuum, anything can happen.

“All over that region, there is essentially one issue, which is how do they evolve and modernise, both in terms of their economy, their society and their politics.

“All I’m saying is that, in the case of Egypt and in the case in Yemen, because there are other factors in this – not least those who would use any vacuum in order to foment extremism – that you do this in what I would call a stable and ordered way.”

Blair said the west should engage with countries such as Egypt in the process of change “so that you weren’t left with what is actually the most dangerous problem in the Middle East, which is that an elite that has an open minded attitude but it’s out of touch with popular opinion, and popular opinion that can often – because it has not been given popular expression in its politics – end up frankly with the wrong idea and a closed idea.”

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Palestinian ambassador to UK’s office taken over by protesters

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.

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Letters: Opposition, intransigence and terrorism in the Middle East

You publish a letter that I find shocking (26 January), arguing that terrorism is a justified moral response to Israeli intransigence. I have spent long periods in Israel and the Palestinian territories, meeting leaders on both sides, and doing the same in Republican areas of Northern Ireland. My conclusion is that terrorism’s audience is a domestic political one; it is designed to make militant a home population and render it fertile to the political ambitions of one party. It cannot be that it holds to a practical aim when that requires the abolition of the state of Israel or “the removal of the British from Ireland”.

Terrorism prolongs conflict and postpones resolution, as well as wasting innocent lives. The rowing back from the bloodshed is hard. Meanwhile, there is in Israel an articulate and motivated peace lobby. Who could argue that terrorism has not empowered the political right in that country and entrenched its divisions, weakening the case of those who argue for a settlement? There is neither a “moral right” nor a practical argument for terrorism in the modern world.

Stephen Davis

Rodborough Common, Gloucestershire

• I have been a supporter of the Palestinian cause for many years, but I do not believe terrorism is justified. If suicide bombing is the only avenue available, then that is tolerable against military forces. Blowing yourself up outside falafel stands is most definitely not.

Kashif Sheikh

Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

• Various people have lined up to urge Ian McEwan not to accept the Jerusalem prize. It was such opposition that provoked Susan Sontag into attending. In her speech she attacked Israel for its policy of collective punishment, the demolition of homes and the building of settlements. People left the hall. Arthur Miller had his doubts, but accepted. In his recorded speech, he accused Israel of adopting a self-defeating policy. He was denounced by the newly elected ultra-Orthodox mayor. Good luck, Ian.

Christopher Bigsby

University of East Anglia

Ian McEwan (Letters, 26 January) cites Daniel Barenboim in his defence. The incredibly brave Barenboim has not only formed a wonderful, ethnically inclusive orchestra. He has repeatedly championed the rights of the Palestinians. When a while ago he received an award in the Israeli parliament building, he was insulted for his peace efforts by a minister. He responded with vigour and without apology. Can we expect similar outspokenness from McEwan?

Gerald Kaufman MP

Lab, Manchester Gorton

• How sad that on Holocaust Memorial Day a British writer should be told not to accept a prize from his Jewish admirers in Israel.

Denis MacShane MP

Lab, Rotherham

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Only authentic leaders can deliver a Middle East peace | Seumas Milne

This week’s leaks have exposed the dangerous folly of US and British attempts to control and divide the Palestinians

It’s a tragedy for the Palestinian people that at a time when their cause is the focus of greater global popular support than ever in their history, their own political movements to win their rights are in such debilitating disarray. That has been one of the clearest messages from the cache of leaked documents al-Jazeera and the Guardian have published over the past few days. It’s not just the scale of one-sided concessions – from refugees to illegal settlements – offered by Palestinian negotiators and banked for free by their Israeli counterparts. The constant refrain of ingratiating desperation is in some ways more shocking. While Israel’s Tzipi Livni rejects the offer to hand over vast chunks of Jerusalem as insufficient – adding “but I really appreciate it” – and Condi Rice muses over resettling Palestinian refugees in South America, the chief PLO negotiator, Saeb Erekat, is reduced to begging for a “figleaf”.

It’s a study in the decay of what in Yasser Arafat’s heyday was an authentic national liberation movement. Try to imagine the Vietnamese negotiators speaking in such a way at the Paris peace talks in the 70s – or the Algerian FLN in the 60s – and it’s obvious how far the West Bank Palestinian leadership has drifted from its national moorings.

However well the basic contours were known, it’s scarcely surprising many Palestinians are still stunned to discover exactly what is being said and done in their name. Erekat writes in the Guardian that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, and any deal would be put to a referendum. But as we know from the Palestine papers, he himself made clear in private that such a vote would exclude most Palestinians, particularly refugees. And as he told US officials last year, the same package offered three years ago is “still there”, waiting to be picked up.

But simply to point the finger at Palestinian leaders is to miss the point. What has been highlighted by the documents is not a picture of genuine negotiation and necessary compromise, but of a gross imbalance of power that can’t deliver peace, let alone justice. What’s more, it’s one where the western powers repeatedly intervene to tilt the scales still further against the victims of the conflict.

What has become clearer from the confidential records is that the talk of “partners for peace” is a fantasy. A far more mainstream Israeli leadership than is now in power was not even close to accepting an offer that would anyway have been almost certainly rejected by Palestinians if they had been consulted.

And why would Israeli negotiators do anything else when their rejection was backed to the hilt by the US government? Reading the transcripts of the talks, they often seem to be simply going through the motions.

It is the story of 20 years of failed peace negotiations that became a charade, a way to maintain the status quo rather than deliver the promised two-state solution, and that have now evidently run into the sand. Inevitably, the vacuum they have left behind can only increase the threat of renewed war.

This is the same peace process that produced the breakdown of authentic leadership and the dysfunctional structures of the Palestinian Authority, which underlie the sorry saga disclosed in the leaked documents.

The PA was designed in the 1993 Oslo agreement to be a temporary administration for a five-year transition to statehood. Eighteen years later it has become an open-ended authoritarian quasi state, operating as an outsourced security arm of the Israeli occupation it was meant to replace, funded and effectively controlled by the US, Britain and other western governments.

Its leader’s electoral mandate ran out two years ago, and the authority has become increasingly repressive, imprisoning and torturing both civilian and military activists from its rival, Hamas, which won the last Palestinian elections.

With the large bulk of its income coming from the US and the European Union, the PA’s leaders are now far more accountable to their funders than to their own people. And, as the records of private dealings between US and PA officials show, it is the American government and its allies that now effectively pick the Palestinians’ leaders.

The new administration expected to see “the same Palestinian faces” in charge if the cash was to keep flowing, PA officials were told after Obama’s election: Mahmoud Abbas and, more importantly, the Americans’ point man, Salam Fayyad.

And despite some less strident rhetoric, the US and British governments have continued to promote the division between Fatah and Hamas, in effect blocking reconciliation while pouring resources and training into the PA security machine’s campaign against the Palestinian Islamist movement.

As we also now know, British intelligence and government officials have been at the heart of the western effort to turn the PA into an Iraqi-style counter-insurgency operation against Hamas and other groups that continue to maintain the option of armed resistance to occupation. Shielded from political accountability at home, how exactly does British covert support for detention without trial of Palestinians by other Palestinians promote the cause of peace and security in the Middle East, or anywhere else? In reality, it simply makes the chances of a representative Palestinian leadership that could actually deliver peace with justice even less likely.

The message from the revolutionary events in Tunisia and the spread of unrest elsewhere in the Arab world should be clear enough. Western support for dictatorial pro-western regimes across the region for fear of who their people might elect if given the chance isn’t just wrong – it’s no longer working, and risks provoking the very backlash it’s aimed to forestall.

That applies even more strongly to the Palestinian territories, under military occupation for the past 44 years. Unless those governments that bolster Israeli rejectionism and PA clientalism shift ground, the result will be to fuel and spread the conflict.

For Palestinians, the priority has to be to start to change that lopsided balance of power. That will require a more representative and united national leadership, as the story told by the Palestine papers has rammed home – which means at the very least a democratic overhaul of Palestinian institutions, such as the PLO. In the wake of what has now emerged, pressure for change is bound to grow. Anyone who cares for the Palestinian cause must hope it succeeds.

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

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

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.

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Gaza war report was stalled by Palestinian Authority on US request

Papers reveal PA held up Goldstone report from UN security council and suggest Abbas was warned of 2008 invasion

Palestinian Authority leaders co-operated with US officials in a bid to postpone the reference of the Goldstone report into war crimes in Gaza to the UN security council, leaked papers reveal. The PA, who have denied they made the decision under US pressure, later reversed their decision.

The postponement of the report into Israel’s 2008 assault on Gaza triggered heavy criticism of the PA leadership, at one time threatening Abbas’s position. But at a meeting on 21 October 2009, three weeks after the Goldstone scandal erupted, US national security adviser Jim Jones told the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: “Thank you for what you did a couple of weeks ago [on Goldstone]; it was very courageous”.

On the day the reference of the report was delayed, US officials presented Palestinian negotiators with a “non paper” [a proposal that is off the record in diplomatic terms] committing the PA to “help promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations … [and] refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere”.

Erekat’s response was to tell Mitchell: “On going to the UN we will always co-ordinate with you.”

The papers also reveal new evidence of contact between Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, and Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence ministry official and senior negotiator, before the the launch of Israel’s assault in late 2008. It remains unclear whether he had advance warning of the impending assault, which he has always denied.

Contacted by Gilad before the war, “Abu Mazen replied that he will not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank,” the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the US envoy George Mitchell in October 2009.

Any evidence that PA leaders co-operated with Israel in the attack on the Hamas-controlled territory, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead, would be highly controversial and fuel anger at the western-backed Ramallah-based leadership, especially by its bitter rival, Hamas.

Earlier this week, Gilad publicly and flatly denied the collusion claim. “No concrete warning concerning an offensive was given to the Palestinian Authority,” he told Israel Radio.

“I didn’t say anything to President Abbas that I hadn’t said to the entire world: that we could not tolerate the resumption of rocket fire and other terrorist attacks against our territory.”

Abbas issued a forceful denial late last year when US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks were quoted as reporting that in June 2009 Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, told a US congressional delegation that Israel “had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.” Barak continued: “Not surprisingly…Israel received negative answers from both.”

Erekat said at the time:”Nobody consulted with us, and that is the truth. Israel doesn’t consult before going to war.”

The Palestine Papers also record how Gilad and Tzipi Livni, then Israeli foreign minister, had spoken to Palestinian negotiators of the likelihood of a fullscale confrontation over Gaza. “We are on a collision course with Hamas,” Gilad warned them. “You need to be prepared.. Sooner or later they [Hamas] will be taken care of.”

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Palestine papers: Gaza report stalled by Palestinian Authority at request of US – video

Footage from al-Jazeera on the leaked Palestine Papers describes how the US influenced Palestinian negotiators, as anger over the leaks grows in Hamas-contolled Gaza


The Palestine papers: suicide attack goads Israeli negotiators

How will you stop bombers, Livni demands at February 2008 meeting


The Palestine papers are a distraction from the real issue | Saeb Erekat

We made no backroom deals, and negotiated in good faith. But Palestine had no partner for peace

The release of Palestinian documents by al-Jazeera reveals nothing new about the nature and content of negotiations. Rather, it constitutes an unambiguous slander campaign aimed at the Palestinian leadership at a time when we seek to take new measures in defence of the Palestinian cause.

We have been accused of making great concessions to Israel behind the back of the Palestinian people. Such allegations are groundless. For the past 19 years the Palestinian leadership has engaged in hard-fought but meaningful negotiations with Israel with the aim of achieving a permanent agreement based on two states on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as our capital and a just solution to the refugee issue based on international law and the United Nations Resolution 194. These red lines have guided and shaped our discussions with Israel and at present with our American interlocutors.

In the course of these negotiations, we have explored a wide range of ideas with the purpose of reaching an understanding of mutual interests leading to an agreed-upon settlement. Yet all of our positions have been grounded in the principles of international law with respect to the rights of the Palestinian people, without exception.

A careful and complete reading of the documents at hand – which goes beyond the sensationalised headlines and spin – will reveal this to be true. First and foremost, it is essential to understand that no agreement has ever been reached between the parties on any of the permanent status issues. This reality, by its very definition, renders it impossible that either party has conceded anything.

Of equal and closely related importance is the most fundamental premise that has been the basis of our negotiations with Israel: namely, that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Accordingly, it is impossible to look at any negotiation map, proffered land swap, or any other issue in isolation without understanding the overall offer then on the table. Any such attempt places an issue squarely out of context. It is at best a misguided exercise, and one that is assured of misrepresenting the facts in any given portion of what have been lengthy, detailed and highly-charged negotiations.

Furthermore, we have always made clear that any solution agreed upon at the negotiating table must hold up to a Palestinian national referendum. In other words, no agreement will be concluded without the approval of the Palestinian people.

Therefore, there are no secrets or back door dealings. We shoulder a huge responsibility with far-reaching implications, and we have spent years trying to reach agreed terms that honour our rights and dignity and that, therefore, will meet the approval of our people.

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 at the other end. Conventional wisdom, supported by the press, has allowed Israel to promote the idea that it has always lacked a partner at our end. 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.

Ultimately the world must not be distracted from what has been the only constant throughout this process. Israel continues to occupy the land of Palestine, to colonise it relentlessly, and to deny the most fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, in particular our refugees. These are the issues that demand attention and that must be addressed without further delay.

• This article will be opened to comments at 9am tomorrow

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Palestinian negotiator rejects claims of back door deals with Israel

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

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

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.

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Letters: Palestine leak and the peace process

Jonathan Freedland’s argument that openness is the best way to conduct the Palestinian-Israeli negotiation is misplaced (A taboo has been broken. Now the arguments for peace can be open, 26 January). The documents that have been leaked add very little to the public knowledge of the options that Palestinians and Israelis have been talking about for the last 17 years. Most of the proposals on settlements, Jerusalem, refugees and borders have been publicly available, as any reading of the Beilin-Abu Mazen plan of 1996 and the Clinton proposals of 2000-01 will show.

What these documents add is gossip and tittle-tattle between the negotiators. If every comment made by the negotiators is to be made public, then no negotiations can ever take place in a free atmosphere. Freedland has not grasped that the main reason for these disclosures is not openness, but an attempt to undermine the Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and thus to destroy the basis for any peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.

John Strawson

Reader in law, University of East London

 

• What these papers show is only what has been self-evident for many years: that successive Israeli governments have had no interest in a “two-state solution”. In fact they have no desire for a peace settlement of any sort with the Palestinians because the current situation suits them. There is no effective international pressure on Israel, whether financial, military or ethical, because it has already been well-established that, however outrageous the policy, the US will support it. The Israeli state has no interest in making peace because the power imbalance is such that they see no need. More than that, the imagined threat that a perpetual conflict can produce is invaluable in a state so riven with internal contradictions.

The occasional homemade rocket is absolutely no threat to the Israeli state, but it provides a useful pretext for the aggressive, expansionist policies that its governments have pursued. Israel’s mistake, though, is that in the end the expansionist state becomes the single state, and Palestinians will be an even more substantial population within that state. In the longterm, the struggle will be for equal rights in a single state.

Sarah Cave

London 

• Jonathan Freedland objects to the word “craven” to describe Palestinian concessions. But when the party without power makes all the concessions, and the party with all the power makes none; when Israel and its chief ally exercise a veto over who will represent the Palestinians; when the Palestinian security forces co-operate with the occupiers to crush elements of their own side who disagree with their approach – then craven (meaning cowardly, abject) is surely exactly the right word.

Richard Barnes

Windermere, Cumbria

• You are right to despair and say that we need a deal (Editorial, 25 January). As a secular Jew, I have never believed that the shameful history of antisemitism can be remedied by the building of a racially defined state (the Jewish state) on the humiliation and denigration of the population of Palestinian Arabs.

The law of return in the Israeli constitution exemplifies the second-class status of the Palestinian population. As a British Jew, I have a right of return to a land I have no affinity with, while an Arab whose family fled the mandated territories when Israel was created has no right of return. This injustice is racial discrimination, pure and simple. The deal you crave can only be achieved in a single-state solution based on secular values, respect for diversity and the rule of law.

Jeremy Ross

Ashtead, Surrey

• Jews emigrating to Israel in the 1940s were told they were a people without land moving to a land without people. Thus Europe solved its Jewish problem by exporting it to the Middle East. Condoleeza Rice proposed to solve Israel’s Palestinian problem by exporting Palestinians to the Andes (Report, 26 January). Another land without people for a people without a land?

Steven Rose

London

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