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Al Jazeera: Introducing the Palestine Papers (LIVE UPDATES)

In Other Leaks, Palestine Papers (LIVE UPDATES) on January 24, 2011 at 5:57 AM

Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents – memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations – date from 1999 to 2010.

The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials.

Al Jazeera will release the documents between January 23-26th, 2011. They will reveal new details about:

  • the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount;
  • the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;
  • details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;
  • and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.

Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, Al Jazeera will not reveal the source(s) or detail how they came into our possession. We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity.

We believe this material will prove to be of inestimable value to journalists, scholars, historians, policymakers and the general public.

We know that some of what is presented here will prove controversial, but it is our intention to inform, not harm, to spark debate and reflection – not dampen it. Our readers and viewers will note that we have provided a comments section in which to express opinions. In keeping with our editorial policies, we reserve the right to excise comments that we deem inappropriate, but all civil voices will be heard, all opinions respected.

We present these papers as a service to our viewers and readers as a reflection of our fundamental belief – that public debate and public policies grow, flourish and endure when given air and light.


About the Transparency Unit

Launched in January 2011, the Al Jazeera Transparency Unit (AJTU) aims to mobilize its audience – both in the Arab world and further afield – to submit all forms of content (documents, photos, audio & video clips, as well as “story tips”) for editorial review and, if merited, online broadcast and transmission on our English and Arabic-language broadcasts.

We believe that this initiative will allow Al Jazeera’s supporters to shine light on notable and newsworthy government and corporate activities which might otherwise go unreported.

From human rights to poverty to official corruption, AJTU will fairly evaluate and pursue all leads and content submitted, without geographical, political, cultural, or religious bias.

All submitted content is subjected to a rigorous vetting and authentication process that encompasses respect for individual privacy, contextualization, and fierce adherence to our tradecraft commitment of “journalism of depth.”

Al Jazeera has also gone to great lengths to protect the identities of our sources. Files will be uploaded and stored on our secure servers, and accessed only by journalists working for the Al Jazeera Transparency Unit.

For more information about how to upload files, and the security measures in place to protect your identity, click here.


The revelations from the heart of the Israel-Palestine peace process are the product of the biggest documentary leak in the history of the Middle East conflict, and the most comprehensive exposure of the inside story of a decade of failed negotiations.

The 1,600 confidential records of hundreds of meetings between Palestinian, Israeli and US leaders, as well as emails and secret proposals, were leaked to the Qatar-based satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera and shared exclusively with the Guardian. They cover the period from the runup to the ill-fated Camp David negotiations under US president Bill Clinton in 2000, to private discussions last year involving senior officials and politicians in the Obama administration.



The Biggest Yerushalayim

PA offered to concede almost all of East Jerusalem, an historic concession for which Israel offered nothing in return.

The Palestine Papers reveal that Israel had no reason to halt construction in Ramat Shlomo. That’s because Palestinian negotiators agreed in 2008 to allow Israel to annex this settlement, along with almost every other bit of illegal construction in the Jerusalem area – an historic concession for which they received nothing in return.

The unprecedented offer by the PA came in a June 15 trilateral meeting in Jerusalem, involving Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state, Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, Ahmed Qurei, PA’s former prime minister, and Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator.


Papers Referenced:


Erekat’s Solution for the Haram

The PA’s chief negotiator suggested unprecedented compromises on the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites.

Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator of the Palestinian Authority (PA), had suggested unprecedented compromises on the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites, the Palestine Papers obtained by Al Jazeera show.

Minutes of negotiations at the US State Department in Washington DC indicate that Erekat was willing to concede control over the Haram al-Sharif, or Temple Mount, to the oversight of an international committee.


The Napkin Map Revealed

The Palestinian Authority proposed an unprecedented land swap to the Israeli government, offering to annex virtually all of the illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.

Not only did the Israeli government offer no concessions in return, but – as The Palestine Papers now reveal – it responded with an even more aggressive land swap: Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert wanted to annex more than 10% of the West Bank (including the major settlements in Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel and elsewhere), in exchange for sparsely-populated farmland along the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Israeli offer is documented in a Palestinian rendition of what’s colloquially called “the napkin map,” a rendering of which is revealed for the first time in The Palestine Papers.

Olmert met in mid-2008 with Mahmoud Abbas and showed him a map of the proposed swaps. Abbas was not allowed to keep a copy of the map, and so the 73-year-old Palestinian president had to sketch a copy by hand on a napkin.

The Palestine Papers include two renditions of the napkin map, one showing Israel’s proposed swaps in the Jerusalem area, another showing all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Israel would keep all of its major West Bank settlements – Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Kedumim and others – none of which were included in the Palestinian offers.


Related Link: “Shocking Revelations” on Jerusalem

Papers Referenced:


Shlomo Ben Ami (former Israeli Foreign Minister), Daud Abdullah (Director of Middle East Monitor UK), and Ali Abunimah (Co-Founder of Electronic Intifada) make up the panel of analysts who discuss the Palestine Papers.


Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) Executive Committee, said in his reaction to the revelations, “They want to compete with WikiLeaks and come up with parallel stories. But WikiLeaks doesn’t bring those presenters or people such as Atwan in order to sensationalise and provoke and serve a preordained position.”

Al Jazeera’s Teymoor Nabili interviewed Abd al-Bari Atwan, editor of the Al-Quds Al Arabi newspaper, the man in question named in Rabbo’s reaction to the leaked documents.


Erekat: Netanyahu Won’t Take My Calls

On January 15, 2010, Saeb Erekat tells Obama adviser David Hale about his struggles to arrange a meeting with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu:

Erekat: “I told the Israelis from the beginning: let’s not waste time, let’s not wait. Let’s see what you have to offer and see what we can work with. I called Uzi Arad before Passover and arranged a call from AM [Abu Mazen] to Netanyahu –to congratulate him. I got nothing -– come Ramadan, the feast, nothing. I called them to meet from the beginning, they kept canceling.

This is Netanyahu: Recently six presidential guards in civilian clothes on their way from Bethlehem to Ramallah were stopped by Israeli soldiers and stripped to humiliate them in front of their people. Nablus was to humiliate Fayyad and AM. This is Netanyahu… I can’’t compete with him…”

Erekat’s language seems alternately insulted and desperate. He goes on to tell Hale about the concessions he’s already made to the Israeli side: “The biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarized state… what more can I give?”


Paper Referenced:


Palestinian officials today lashed out at the publication of leaked documents revealing a secret agreement to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in East Jerusalem – one of the most sensitive issues to be resolved in the conflict with Israel.

The unprecedented proposal, revealed by al-Jazeera TV and the Guardian, was one of several concessions that have caused shockwaves among Palestinians and across the Arab world. It appears in a cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations and which provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process.

Yasser Abed-Rabbo, a senior PLO leader, attacked al-Jazeera and its Qatari owners over what he called “a distortion of the truth” designed to create confusion. Speaking in Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, he called the leak “a propaganda game through the media in order to brainwash Palestinian citizens”.

Saeb Erekat, the PLO’s chief negotiator, who features in many of the documents, said: “We don’t have anything to hide. [The papers have been] taken out of context and contain lies … Al-Jazeera’s information is full of distortions and fraud.”

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, insisted: “We say things very clearly. We do not have secrets.”

Hamas, the Islamist movement which opposes negotiations with Israel and advocates armed resistance, accused the PLO of betraying Palestinian interests. “This leadership is not honest,” Osama Hamdan told al-Jazeera. “They have no credibility to negotiate. It is clear from these documents that they have no authorisation from their own people.”



The most controversial revelation so far is the apparent willingness of the PA to give concessions on disputed areas of Jerusalem.

The PA dismissed Al Jazeera’s report as lies.

Al Jazeera’s David Foster spoke to former Israeli foreign minister, Shlomo Ben Ami, about the Palestine Papers.


Palestinian negotiators apparently put forward East Jerusalem, the area of Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinians but occupied by Israel, in negotiations for a Palestinian state, according to documents obtained by Al Jazeera.

These revelations from The Palestine Papers have particularly angered Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher spoke to some of the residents.

he Palestinian Authority (PA) has denounced Al Jazeera’s release of the Palestine Papers.And among Palestinians in the West Bank, opinions are divided. Supporters of the PA, angered by the release of the documents, questioned Al Jazeera’s timing and motives in doing so.

Some opposed to the release of the papers even called for a protest.

Around 50 people stormed Al Jazeera’s offices in Ramallah on Monday, attempting to burst through the door. But they were stopped when police were called to the scene.

James Bays reports from Ramallah.


Hundreds of Palestinians loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas broke into Al-Jazeera’s offices in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Monday, a day after the media agency released two decades of secret information known as the Palestine papers.

About 250 Abbas loyalists rallied in support of the president in front of the building housing the local Al-Jazeera office on the seventh and eighth floors. A small group climbed the stairs to the station’s offices, where they tried to break in. They did succeed in shattering security cameras, glass door panels and station logos.

“Oh Jazeera, you are spies!” chanted the Abbas loyalists, mainly young men. They set fire to an Israeli flag with “Al Jazeera” written on it, witnesses said.

The protesters also sprayed graffiti on the wall, declaring “Al-Jazeera are spies” and “Al-Jazeera equals Israel”.

Palestinian police removed the violent protesters and prevented the larger crowd outside the building from entering.



This Seemingly Endless and Ugly Game of the Peace Process is Now Finally Over

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

It’s over. Given the shocking nature, extent and detail of these ghastly revelations from behind the closed doors of the Middle East peace process, the seemingly endless and ugly game is now, finally, over. Not one of the villains on the Palestinian side can survive it. With any luck the sheer horror of this account of how the US and Britain covertly facilitated and even implemented Israeli military expansion – while creating an oligarchy to manage it – might overcome the entrenched interests and venality that have kept the peace process going. A small group of men who have polluted the Palestinian public sphere with their private activities are now exposed.

For us Palestinians, these detailed accounts of the secretly negotiated surrender of every one of our core rights under international law (of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, on annexing Arab Jerusalem, on settlements) are not a surprise. It is something that we all knew – in spite of official protests to the contrary – because we feel their destructive effects every day. The same is true of the outrageous role of the US and Britain in creating a security bantustan, and the ruin of our civic and political space. We already knew, because we feel its fatal effects.

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

The release into the public domain of these documents is such a landmark because it destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process. Everything to do with it relied upon a single axiom: that each new initiative or set of negotiations with the Israelis, every policy or programme (even the creation of undemocratic institutions under military occupation), could be presented as carried out in good faith under harsh conditions: necessary for peace, and in the service of our national cause. Officials from all sides played a double game vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It is now on record that they have betrayed, lied and cheated us of basic rights, while simultaneously claiming they deserved the trust of the Palestinian people.

This claim of representative capacity – and worse, the assertion they were representing the interests of Palestinians in their struggle for freedom – had become increasingly thin over the last decade and a half. The claim they were acting in good faith is absolutely shattered by the publication of these documents today, and the information to be revealed over this coming week. Whatever one’s political leanings, no one, not the Americans, the British, the UN, and especially not these Palestinian officials, can claim that the whole racket is anything other than a brutal process of subjugating an entire people.

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

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

This uneven balance of power can only be successfully addressed in the same way every national liberation movement has addressed it in the past: through the unassailable strength of a popular mandate. Ho Chi Minh sitting down with the French, or Nelson Mandela negotiating with the apartheid regime embodied this popular legitimacy, and indeed drew their principles and negotiating positions from it. The Palestinian leadership’s weak and incompetent posturing is the opposite of dignified and honourable national representation, and proves useless to boot.

On the positive side, had such deals eventually come to light, Palestinians would have rejected them comprehensively. But the worst betrayal has been what this hypocrisy has bequeathed to the young generation of Palestinians. These officials have led a new generation to believe that participating in public governance is base and self-seeking, that joining any political party is the least useful method to advance principals and create change.

Through their harmful example, they have alienated young Palestinians from their own history of resistance to colonial and military rule, so they now believe that tens of thousands of brilliant, imaginative and extraordinarily brave Palestinians never existed or, worse, fought and died for nothing. It cuts them off from any useful mobilising methods and techniques that they might draw upon today – the democratic and collective mechanisms that are needed more than ever. They have given young people the idea that there is no virtue in collective organisation, the mechanism by which popular democratic change is made and preserved.

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



This sleepy agricultural village, an hour’s drive northeast from Tel Aviv, feels worlds apart from Israel’s commercial capital. Garbage lines many of the narrow, rutted streets, symptoms of the lower level of government funding bestowed upon the town; unemployed men mill about, complaining that Israel’s policies have hurt the local economy.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s hard-right foreign minister, has proposed annexing this and other Arab villages to a future Palestinian state. Their inhabitants would be stripped of their Israeli citizenship unless they were willing to leave their land and swear a “loyalty oath” to the state.

His plan is deeply unpopular here and in nearby villages. Despite the discrimination most Arabs experience in Israel, they say few will renounce their Israeli citizenship to become Palestinians.

During several 2008 meetings with Palestinian negotiators, Tzipi Livni proposed annexing Arab villages to the future Palestinian state, forcing tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs to choose between their citizenship and their land.

Her clearest language came on June 21, 2008, when she told senior Palestinian negotiators Ahmed Qurei and Saeb Erekat that their land swaps should include Israeli Arab villages. Udi Dekel, a top adviser to the then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, rattled off a list of villages that would be annexed to Palestine.

Livni: We have this problem with Raja [Ghajar] in Lebanon. Terje Larsen put the blue line to cut the village in two. [This needs to be addressed.] We decided not to cut the village. It was a mistake. The problem now, those living on Lebanese soil are Israeli citizens.

Dekel: Barka, Barta il Sharqiya, Barta il [Garbiya], Betil, Beit Safafa…

Qurei: This will be difficult. All Arabs in Israel will be against us.

Becker: We will need to address it somehow. Divided. All Palestinian. All Israeli.

Two months earlier, in another meeting with Qurei and Erekat, Livni herself mentioned the same villages, describing them – their status in the state of Israel – as a problem in need of resolution.

Livni: Let us be fair. You referred to 1967 line. We have not talked about Jerusalem yet. There are some Palestinian villages that are located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta’a, Baqa al-Sharqiyeh and Baqa al-Gharbiyyeh.

Livni’s choice of words is striking. Beit Safafa, Barta’a and Baqa al-Gharbiyya all sit at least partly on the Israeli side of the Green Line; their inhabitants carry Israeli passports, pay taxes to the Israeli government, and overwhelmingly self-identify as Israelis.

But Livni describes them as Palestinians – and suggests that they do not belong in the state of Israel.


Related Links:

A Dangerous Shift On 1967 Lines

Palestinian Negotiators Accept Jewish State, Papers Reveal

They are known as the “Children of the Nakba” – a generation of Palestinians that witnessed, and survived, the forced expulsion and violence in 1948 committed by Zionist paramilitaries on behalf of the nascent state of Israel.

They each have a story about how they or their parents managed to escape their homeland over 60 years ago – and their wounds are still raw.

Some six million Palestinian refugees are scattered around the world, including more than 400,000 in Lebanon. Here, they are deprived of basic rights, not permitted to buy or sell property, and are banned from more than 70 job categories. Mired in abject poverty, they are dependent on an increasingly incapable United Nations agency for aid.

The Palestine Papers show that Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiators were prepared to make major concessions on the refugees’ right of return: on the numbers potentially allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel; on whether refugees would be able to vote on any peace agreement; and on how many would be able to settle in a future Palestinian state.

The papers also reveal that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proposed that 1,000 Palestinian refugees be allowed to return annually to Israel over a period of five years – totalling just 5,000, a tiny fraction of those displaced after Israel’s creation.

According to the documents, not only did Palestinian officials offer a low figure of returnees, the chief negotiator of the PLO, Saeb Erekat, said that refugees would not have voting rights on a possible peace deal with Israel.

Notes of a meeting on March 23, 2007, between Erekat and then-Belgian foreign minister Karel De Gucht, reveal that Erekat said, “I never said the Diaspora will vote. It’s not going to happen. The referendum will be for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Can’t do it in Lebanon. Can’t do it in Jordan.”

While Erekat conceded the rights of Palestinian refugees to determine their own fate, during such meetings Israeli negotiators made clear their vision for the refugees.

In a negotiation meeting on January 27, 2008, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, told her Palestinian counterparts, “Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians including refugees. Putting an end to claims means fulfilling national rights for all.”

Erekat seemed to buy into this idea. In a meeting with US diplomats, including Special Envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, on October 21, 2009, Erekat said, “Palestinians will need to know that five million refugees will not go back. The number will be agreed as one of the options. Also the number returning to their own state will depend on annual absorption capacity”.

So even a future Palestinian state could not accommodate the millions of displaced who would want to settle there.


Related Links:

Papers Reveal How Palestinian Leaders Gave Up Fight Over Refugees


Senior PLO official Nabil Shaath talks to Al Jazeera about the Palestine papers.


Demanding a Demilitarized State

Israeli negotiators demanded that they keep Israeli troops in the West Bank, maintain control of Palestinian airspace, and dictate exactly what weapons could and could not be purchased by the Palestinian security forces. In May 2008, Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, tells Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, “In order to create your state you have to agree in advance with Israel – you choose not to have the right of choice afterwards. These are the basic pillars.” From a meeting between Amos Gilad, the Israeli general and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat:

Erekat: So no army, no navy… fine. But what do I do if my security is at stake? What should I do?

Gilad: Consult.

Related Links:


The al-Madhoun Assassination

Notes in the Paelestine Papers reveal an exchange in 2005 between the Palestinian Authority and Israel on a plan to kill a Palestinian fighter named Hassan al-Madhoun, who lived in the Gaza strip.

The Palestine Papers show how the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, once the spearhead of action against the Israeli occupation, has been transformed into a body that helps maintaining it.

With the common goal of destroying Hamas, the Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which the PA, the US and Israel were willing to work together, and the extent to which the PA linked the fate of Hamas with its own political survival.

From a meeting between Saeb Erekat, the PA’s chief negotiator with David Hale, the deputy US Middle East envoy on September 17, 2009.

Erekat: We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law. We continue to perform our obligations. We have invested time and effort and killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.

Related Links:
Papers Referenced:


MI6 Offered to Detain Hamas Figures

British government also provided financial support for two Fatah security forces linked to torture.

The Palestine Papers reveal that the British government played a significant role in equipping and funding the Palestinian security forces, several of which have been linked to torture and other abuses.

More unbelievably, the UK’s MI-6 intelligence service proposed detaining members of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an extraordinary –and illegal – scheme in which the European Union would have paid for their detention.

Under the heading “degrading the capabilities of the rejectionist groups,” the MI-6 document suggests:

“… 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, making sure they are welltreated, with EU funding.”

An appendix to the document outlines how the British government might help the Palestinian Authority. It includes British plans to seize firearms and rockets from the West Bank and Gaza; to cut off funding to “rejectionist groups” like Hamas; and to reduce weapons smuggling through tunnels into Gaza.

It is difficult to say which of these ideas were actually put into practice. But two subsequent documents from the following year suggest that, at the very least, the British government provided funding for Palestinian security forces.

A document from the British foreign office provides “a synopsis of the project work that the UK is engaged in with the Palestinian Security Forces.” It documents hundreds of thousands of dollars in security assistance to the PA.

Of particular note are two $90,000 allocations, one to the Preventive Security force, the other to the General Intelligence Service.

Both have been linked to widespread human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported in July 2008 that Preventive Security had carried out most of the arrests of Hamas activists in the West Bank. “Many of the arrests were unlawful,” the group reported, “and arrested individuals sometimes encountered maltreatment at the time of arrest or torture during interrogation.” General Intelligence was also linked to cases of torture.

“The most abusive forces, local groups say, are the Preventive Security or General Intelligence Service. Most of the abuses documented in this report were committed by one of those two forces,” HRW concluded.

In a statement to Al Jazeera, the British foreign office said it takes allegations of torture “extremely seriously.”

Papers Referenced:


Blair’s Counter-Insurgency “Surge”

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, the EU was pursuing the polar opposite objectives.

In 2003, US efforts to marginalize President Arafat by leeching away his presidential powers into the embrace of 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. Bush complained to Blair bitterly about Abbas’ 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 Palestine Papers too show how the project ballooned: a huge investment in training and infrastructure of the security services; building of 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 assignation of Hamas leaders: Even the international Quartet was engaged to work with Arab states’ intelligence services in order to disrupt Hamas’ sources of financing. The ‘surge’ sucked in everything: Aid, economic assistance, institution-building – all were re-oriented 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’ 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 which 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 schizophrenia of maintaining one line in public, whilst its security policies were facing in another direction entirely. Thus, we have the EU ‘talking the talk’ of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, whilst ‘walking the walk’ of disruption, detention, seizing the finances, and destroying the capabilities of one of the two factions; thus we have EU ‘talking the talk’ of aid for Palestinians, whilst ‘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, whilst Palestinian institutions are dispersed to external control; we have the EU ‘talking the talk’ of democracy, whilst 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 schizophrenia 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 Mr Blair’s 2003 surge has been a highly costly one, as The Palestine Papers well illustrate.

Related Links:

PA Questions Tony Blair’s Role

MI6 Offered to Detain Hamas Figures


PA Questions Tony Blair’s Role

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad wondered whether Quartet envoy’s initiatives were too small to be helpful.

At times – given the scope of the conflict – his projects seem quite small, an observation made at one point by Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad, who warned that Blair’s state-building efforts would amount to little without a more substantive change in Israeli policy.

Related Links:

Blair’s Counter-Insurgency “Surge”

MI6 Offered to Detain Hamas Figures

Papers Referenced:


Qurei: “Occupy the Crossing”

Top PA negotiator offers to allow Israel to re-occupy the Philadelphi corridor on the Gaza-Egypt border.

The 14km-long Philadelphi corridor between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been controlled by Hamas since 2007. In February of 2008, after hundreds of thousands of Gazans entered Egypt to buy food and supplies, Ahmed Qurei, the former Palestinian Authority prime minister, asked Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister, if Israel could re-occupy the Philadephi corridor to seal the border and cut off supplies to Hamas. During another meeting later that month, Livni reintroduced the subject.

Livni: Regarding Philadelphi, whether or not it was a mistake to leave it. If indeed it was a mistake, since Egypt is not effective like Jordan, can our agreement provide for Israeli presence in Philadelphi?

Qurei: Palestine will be independent but can co-ordinate. Agreement should reflect that with a commitment to security. Therefore regarding parameters I believe security is part of regional vision. Other neighbours don’t have a problem — regional security is interconnected.

Related Links:

Cutting Off a Vital Connection

Erekat: “I Can’t Stand Hamas”

Papers Referenced:


Erekat: “I Can’t Stand Hamas”

For Fatah, the Annapolis process seems to have been as much about crushing Hamas as about ending Israel’s occupation.

The Annapolis process was meant to be a round of peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement to solve the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But instead of focusing on resolving the core issues at hand, why did Palestinian negotiators spend so much time during the meetings denigrating their political rivals, Hamas?

The Palestine Papers reveal that Fatah was obsessed with maintaining political supremacy over Hamas, with Israel’s cooperation, especially following the 2006 electoral victory of the Islamist movement. Documents obtained by Al Jazeera also show the extent to which the Palestinian Authority cracked down on Hamas institutions to weaken the group and strengthen its own relationship with Israel.

Related Links:

Cutting off a Vital Connection

Qurei to Israel: “Occupy the Crossing”

Papers Referenced:


Deep Frustrations With Obama

Obama pressured PA negotiators to restart talks and refused to honour one of the Bush administration’s key promises.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told Obama early in the latter’s presidency that Israeli-Palestinian talks would not be credible without a complete Israeli settlement freeze, to no avail.

Netanyahu rejected the US president’s request for a complete settlement freeze, agreeing only to suspend new construction in the West Bank (thousands of new tenders were issued in East Jerusalem during the freeze period). But the White House accepted the offer, and Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, would later praise Israel for its “unprecedented” concession”.

During the 10-month West Bank freeze, the Jerusalem municipality approved, among other projects, 1,600 housing tenders in Ramat Shlomo; 377 in Neve Yaakov; 230 in Pisgat Ze’ev; 117 in Har Homa; and 20 in Sheikh Jarrah.

(Settlers in the West Bank quickly made up for lost time, too: They started 1,629 new houses in six weeks after the freeze ended, nearly as many as they started in all of 2009, according to the Israeli group Peace Now.)

Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state, explicitly endorsed using 1967 borders as a baseline for negotiations. Under Obama, the US “would not agree to any mention of ’67 whatsoever” in order to avoid “difficulties with the Israelis”.

Papers Referenced:


PA Stonewalled the Goldstone Vote

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

On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.

Related Links:

Erekat “Told Amr Moussa To Behave”

PA is bluntly critical of many Arab states, particularly Egyptian efforts to broker a deal between Hamas and Fatah.

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.

“The Region Is Slipping Away”

Documents reveal a Palestinian Authority that’s critical, mistrustful and fearful of Arab neighbours.

Earlier this week, in response to Al Jazeera’s first release of The Palestine Papers, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas tried to dismiss the documents by invoking pan-Arab solidarity.

“We don’t hide anything from our Arab brothers,” he said in Cairo. “We have been briefing our Arab brothers about all our activities with the Israelis and the Americans.”

But there is little Arab unity on display in The Palestine Papers: The documents reveal a Palestinian Authority that is often critical and mistrusting of its “Arab brothers”.

Papers Referenced:


The possibility that the Palesinian Authority had foreknowledge of the attack on Gaza that killed approximately 1400 Palestinians

Al Jazeera discusses this in PA’s foreknowledge of the Gaza war? pointing to quotes such as

Gilad: The West Bank is coming and this is Hamas’ strategic goal. We are not negotiating with them but we allow the entry of food and fuel into the Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons. My strategic advice for you is to be ready. It is like Achilles’ heel; if the situation goes on as it is for a year or two more, you will become weaker and Hamas will have control over the West Bank. They in Hamas understand the situation and they are fearful. Gaza was only an example. They understand the mood in Israel.

to contradict Erekat’s claims that the Palestinian Authority did not discuss with Israel their attacks on Gaza that left 1400 Palestinians dead. According to Erekat, “We knew about the war because the Israelis were saying there was going to be a war … there were never any actual consultations between us and the Israelis before the war.”

Papers Referenced:

WikiLeaks Cable Referenced: Codels Ackerman and Casey Meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu


Expanding the Occupation?

Clayton Swisher reports on the PA’s surprising suggestion that Israel reoccupy the Philadelphi crossing.

Ahmed Qurei, a senior Palestinian Authority negotiator, made a surprising request in 2008: He asked Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, if Israel would reoccupy the Philadelphi corridor between Gaza and Egypt. Clayton Swisher reports.


The increasingly frequent threat from Palestine of a one state solution as a negotiating tool or a viable option.

The threat of a one-state solution From 2007 on, Erekat, the chief PA negotiator, began referring to the one-state solution as a so-called BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. In a meeting on October 2, 2009, he stated, “It is the last time for the two states. My option, the BATNA, if all this goes down, is the one state.”

In a meeting on October 21 2009 he repeated the threat:

Erekat: We know what it take[s], after 19 years. They [the Israelis] cannot decide if they want two states. They want to keep settling in the areas of my state.

Mitchell: But they will settle more if you continue this way.

Erekat: Then we announce the one state and the struggle for equality in the state of Israel. If our state will not be viable and will have the wall we will fight against apartheid. You either have a decision for peace or a decision for settlements. You cannot have both.

From Al Jazeera:

A poll released in April 2010 by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, for example, found 34 per cent support for a bi-national state, up from 21 per cent in June 2009. An October 2010 pollf from the Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research found 27 per cent support for a one-state option, up from 23 per cent in May 2009.

In 2003, Muammar Qadafi was one of the first Arab leaders to publicly endorse a one-state solution, which he named ‘Isratine’ [a combination of the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’]. Qadafi argued that a two-state option would create unacceptable security hazards for Israel on the one hand, and would do little to address the issue of the Palestinian refugees on the other.

Referenced Papers:


US Sidelined Palestinian Democracy

The Palestine Papers show that the voices of the Palestinian people themselves never came into the equation.

US president Barack Obama personally warned Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas against “surprising” him with a reconciliation deal with Hamas that did not meet strict conditions imposed by the United States and the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN Secretary General), Palestinian records of meetings with the president show. When Abbas threatened to resign in late 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that she and Obama would intervene personally to keep Abbas in place.

The confidential minutes and accounts of the meetings, which were leaked to Al Jazeera as part of The Palestine Papers, cast new light on the extent to which the United States — in contradiction to its professions of support for democracy — micromanaged the affairs of the Palestinian leadership, in particular the Fatah movement.

Papers Referenced:


The US Role As Israel’s Enabler

George Mitchell’s message means the United States is out of touch with Palestinian realities.

The Palestine Papers give the world an unprecedented look inside the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, but they also provide a fly-on-the-wall view of how key senior American officials view their role as negotiators which, as the paprs show, apparently means never taking any position to which an Israeli government might object. The series of six documents that provide a core element to understanding the debates that raged over Israeli settlements show just how willing the U.S. is to acquiesce to Israeli demands – and how willing they are to pressing the PA leadership to move forward on the negotiations despite Israel’s flaunting of international agreements, including freezing all settlement activity.

Papers Referenced:


Al Jazeera has collected a few of the lighter moments of the negotiations in this article including: 

  • US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who was prone to anecdotes of what her father used to say, and suggested sending the Palestinian diaspora to live in Chile and Argentina, seriously suggested Palestine use Jordan’s airspace as their own since Palestine’s was “too small”.
  • Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni joked, “We’ve a saying too. When you want to curse somebody you tell him “Go to hell” but we shorten it and say “Go to Gaza.”
  • Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “Whoever will be able to reach an agreement to solve this conflict will be the most important figure in the region after Jesus Christ!”
  • And more …
Papers Referenced:


The PA blocked potential prisoner swaps that would have freed thousands of Palestinians and Shalit.
For almost five years, family members of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails have waited in the hope that they might be reunited with their loved ones as Israel and Hamas engaged in mediated negotiations on a deal to exchange Gilad Shalit, the single Israeli prisoner of war held in the Gaza Strip, for the freedom of Palestinian prisoners.

But despite high expectations, the deal has never materialized. Analysis of secret minutes of meetings between top Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials revealed in The Palestine Papers shows that strenuous PA lobbying likely torpedoed the deal in mid-2008 with the result that far fewer Palestinian prisoners have been released by Israel.

The PA officials were concerned that an Israeli deal with Hamas would further weaken the PA and its US-supported leader Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads the Fatah political faction, Hamas’ main rival.

This revelation underscores the extent to which the PA was prepared to subordinate the immediate needs of Palestinians — including prisoners and their families — to the desperate battle with Hamas, of which they often spoke of with Israeli officials as a common enemy.

Papers Referenced:


The PA vs. Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera receives numerous mentions, none of them flattering, in this trove of Palestinian documents.

The Palestinian Authority thinks it has quite a few enemies in the region, according to The Palestine Papers, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and other Arab states.

To that list, add a certain Qatar-based satellite TV channel.

Al Jazeera receives numerous mentions, none of them flattering, in this trove of Palestinian documents. It is often portrayed as pro-Hamas, a biased impediment to the “peace process.” Other Arabic-language media outlets are mentioned in the documents, but rarely by name.

The PA is keenly aware – in all of its internal discussion of media coverage – that its actions are often portrayed in an unflattering light.

Papers Referenced:


Saeb Erekat Resigns, Palestinian Elections to be Held by September

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