Israel Spurned Historic Palestinian Concession: Massive Document Leak Revealed
In what has always been seen as the "non-negotiable" sacred cow from the Arab view point, top negotiators from the Palestinian Authority offered Israel control over the near entirety of illegally occupied East Jerusalem. Many of the documents directly quote chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as more or less pleading for an Israeli agreement.
The Guardian, which has also been given access to the diplomatic documents has termed this the "biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict."
Erekat told Israeli leaders in 2008: "This is the first time in Palestinian-Israeli history in which such a suggestion is officially made." No such concession had been made at Camp David. But the offer was rejected out of hand by Israel because it did not include a big settlement near the city Ma'ale Adumim as well as Har Homa and several others deeper in the West Bank, including Ariel. "We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands," Israel's then foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, told the Palestinians, "and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it".
Sunday's report in the U.K. daily lists the breathtaking scope of the Palestinian offers and the till now unreported level of cooperation between them and the Israeli leadership:
This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.
A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.
The documents – many of which will be published by the Guardian over the coming days – also reveal:
• The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
• How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state.
• The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.
• The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
• How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel's 2008-9 war in Gaza.
The papers, thought to have been leaked from the Palestinian side, cover a ten year period and demonstrate a much greater flexibility among Palestinian negotiators than previously ascribed to them. They also reflect a marked fear among leaders of the Palestinian Authority that their clout is being undermined by the influence of the more radical and intransigent Hamas faction -- which now controls the Gaza Strip.
One of the more striking concessions revealed in these trove of documents is the Palestinian offer to limit to 10,000 the number of exiles that would be allowed the politically sacred "right to return" to an eventual Palestinian state.
The bombshell revelations come as the Israeli-Palestinian talks have ground to a dead halt over Israel's refusal to halt the construction of all new settlements on occupied Arab territory.
Appearing on a Sunday talk show, Palestinian negotiator Erekrat has dismissed the documents as false, but both Al Jazeera and the Guardian say they have verified their authenticity. Additionally, several regional experts agree it is the interests of the Palestinians to have leaked the information at this time as a way of discrediting accusations that their inflexibility has led to the collapse of the talks.
The Guardian says it will be releasing more information scraped from the documents over the coming week.