The Palestine Papers – In Which We Learn No One Speaks for the Palestinians
Yesterday, as Israel prepared to launch a PR campaign to support their self-investigation of the Mavi Mamara, Al Jazeera released the first of 1700 leaked documents telling us what has really been going on during the “Israeli Palestinian peace talks.” As one commentator has said, “they blow the cover off the secret negotiations.” Al Jazeera has shared the documents with the Guardian, where comments note that Israel’s persistent claim to not have a “partner for peace” can no longer be given any credibility.
The documents released yesterday told us a lot – and none of it is good for the Palestinian people.
While Israeli intransigence has been quite clear recently – take for example, their startup of new settlement construction in the midst of Biden’s visit — the papers show that even when the Palestinian Authority representative, Saeb Erekat, offered Israel almost precisely what they claim to want, what he described as “the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in history,” Israel continued to turn them down.
Of course, our own government has its hands deep in this mess – and this afternoon’s new release from the leaked documents shows just how deep.
From the Guardian’s coverage:
The Obama administration has privately made clear that it will not allow any change of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, the leaked papers reveal…
“The new US administration expects to see the same Palestinian faces (Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad) if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority,” the then assistant secretary of state David Welch is recorded as telling Fayyad in November 2008…
Almost a year later, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reacted angrily to news that Abbas had threatened to resign and call for new presidential elections. She told Palestinian negotiators: “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] not running in the election is not an option – there is no alternative to him.” The threat was withdrawn and no election was held…
The US government’s private determination to use its financial and military leverage to keep the existing regime in place — while publicly continuing to maintain that Palestinians are free to choose their own leaders — echoes the Bush administration’s veto on attempts to create a Palestinian national unity administration after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007…
Abbas was elected president in 2005, but his mandate expired in 2009 and is no longer recognised by Hamas, among others, as the legitimate Palestinian leader. Fayyad was appointed prime minister by Abbas after the Hamas takeover of Gaza but his legitimacy is also strongly contested as his appointment was never confirmed as required by the PA’s parliament.
The Guardian also reports that “then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was revealed in leaked US official documents to have as good as instructed Abbas to ‘collapse’ the then joint Fatah-Hamas national unity government.” (Condi Rice also suggested that Palestinian refugees could be resettled in Latin America rather than be allowed to return home.)
Al Jazeera points as well to the US role under Obama:
Erekat also warned that Obama’s failure to secure a complete settlement freeze from the Israeli government would damage the credibility of the young administration, a suggestion [Obama Senior Advisor David] Hale abruptly dismissed.
Hale: We cannot force a sovereign government. We can use persuasion and negotiations and shared interests.
Erekat: Of course you could if you wanted. How do you think this will reflect on the credibility of the US, if you can’t get this done?
Hale: We make the call on our own credibility.
This American unwillingness to force Israel’s hands on the settlement issue was highlighted again last week when Secretary of State Clinton spoke against an upcoming UN resolution condemning the illegal settlements:
“The only way that there will be a resolution of the conflict… is through a negotiated settlement,” Clinton said. “Therefore we don’t see action at the UN or any other forum as being helpful in bringing about this desired outcome.”
Throughout the documents released so far, we see a complete disregard for the will of the Palestinian people themselves, whether it’s American meddling in Palestinian elections, Israel’s demand that even Arabs who live in Israel as Israeli citizens – paying taxes and carrying Israeli passports — should have their villages reassigned to a new Palestinian state, whether they want that or not, or Palestinian Authority representatives offering to give up the “right to return,” a critical condition to the 5 million Palestinian refugees, agreeing instead to a “symbolic number” of 10-15,000 total.
Just how voiceless most Palestinians feel can be summed up by “31-year-old Mohammed,”
“You are asking us to divide something that belongs to us and has already been divided before. Our land is like a piece of cake, and [the Israelis] are eating it all. Tomorrow they will chase us for the spoons and forks.”