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Palestine leaks to hurt Abbas

By Antoun Issa - posted Monday, 31 January 2011

The release of The Palestine Papers - a decade of private Israeli-Palestinian negotiations - by Al Jazeera and the Guardian is likely to damage Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ credibility among Palestinians.

The Qatari-based satellite network, Al Jazeera, obtained over 1,600 classified documents, mostly meeting minutes between Israeli, Palestinian and American officials spanning a decade.

The overall picture depicts a Palestinian leadership collaborating intimately with Israel in its struggle with Hamas, and at times desperate to strike a peace deal with the Jewish state by offering unprecedented concessions.


Revelations of increasingly close ties between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel is likely to deepen misgivings amongst Palestinians, and within the Arab world, on Abbas’ credibility to lead the Palestinian cause.

Much has already been made in the international media of the extremely generous Palestinian offer to Israel to annex the majority of Jewish settlements - deemed illegal under international law - in East Jerusalem.

Key Palestinian official and former Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei proposed in 2008 to then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice that “Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa).”

The Palestinians have insisted - in public at least - that East Jerusalem is to be made the capital of a future Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

However, private meetings revealed by The Palestine Papers show a Palestinian negotiating team eager to sign a peace deal at a considerably high price, and an Israel reluctant to part with its major settlements.

Granted the PA held firm on other illegal West Bank Jewish settlements outside of Jerusalem, such as Maale Adumim and Ariel, conceding much of Jerusalem - a highly sensitive issue for Palestinians and Arabs - is certain to outrage many in the Arab world.


Palestinian negotiators not only caved on Jerusalem, but also on the case of the roughly 6 million Palestinian refugees languishing in squalid refugee camps in neighbouring Arab countries. The ‘right of return’ has long been a thorn in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but a key demand the Palestinians have previously refused to surrender.

The ‘right of return’, as well as Palestinian claims to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are recognised in the international community. UN General Assembly Resolution 194 - dating back to 1948 - states that Palestinian refugees expelled from their homeland are “permitted” to return.

Yet Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat remarked in a January 2010 meeting with US official David Hale that his authority acknowledged that only a “symbolic number” of Palestinian refugees would return. Such a number would be determined by the “absorption capacity” of a future Palestinian state.

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About the Author

Antoun Issa is an Australian-based freelance political writer, Global Voices Online author, and commentator on international affairs, with a specific interest in Middle Eastern issues.

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