Leaks for Palestine

January 24, 2011

Leaks for Palestine

Some are calling it “the nail in the coffin of the [Mideast] peace process.” Al Jazeera obtained a trove of one thousand six hundred documents (dubbed “The Palestine Papers”) that the Middle East news agency shared “exclusively” with British paper the Guardian. Both outlets say the papers show that the Palestinians were ready in 2008 to accept an “unprecedented” proposal and a “string of concessions,” including on Israeli settlement annexation and “right of return” for Palestinian refugees.

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland says it shows that the Israelis, in fact, “had a peace partner,” a revelation which “blow[s] apart what has been a staple of Israeli public diplomacy.” And while that may be seen to work in Palestinians’ favor, Freedland writes, “The effect of these papers on Israel will be the reverse” because “it brings national humiliation” by showing the Palestinians were willing to give away the farm to no avail. The Elder of Ziyon predicts a backlash in both the Israeli and the Palestinian camps, and Taylor Marsh writes, “In American terms, it looks like an early Valentine for Hamas.”

Indeed, the New York Times is reporting that the West Bank­–controlling Palestinian Authority “immediately rejected the Al Jazeera report as ‘a bunch of lies,’” while Gaza-centered politico-terrorist group Hamas “seized on the documents.” The Washington Post relays that State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley tweeted, not surprisingly, “We cannot vouch for their veracity."

Politico’s Ben Smith says the whole thing is “hardly news and is, indeed, how negotiations work.” And TNI blogger Jacob Heilbrunn thinks “it shows how intractable negotiations remain.” Evelyn Gordon notes that “far from constituting an ‘unthinkable’ concession, the PA offer detailed in these documents didn’t even amount to the minimum that every peace plan of the past decade has deemed necessary for an agreement” because it didn’t include parts of the West Bank.

But others aren’t willing to shrug it off. MJ Rosenberg directly contradicts Gordon’s claim, writing the documents show that “On no major issue did the PA hold the line. None.” Steve Clemons says the revelations remind him of “Netanyahu's video taped comments that Americans are easily manipulated.” Juan Cole claims the leaks “could well destroy the Palestinian Liberation Organization” as well as Fatah, and reveal the peace process as a “sham.”