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WEST BANK: Leaks from peace talks don't show Palestinians making shocking concessions

If there’s a lesson from Sunday's leak of alleged meeting minutes from 2008 Mideast peace talks involving Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. officials and from the previous WikiLeaks dump of U.S. diplomatic cables, perhaps it's this: Governments needn't be so afraid of having their private business aired in public.

After the initial U.S. embarrassment from the WikiLeaks disclosures, many came to believe that the cables actually showed U.S. diplomats to be rather astute and well-informed. In the same way, Palestinians so far don't really seem to have anything to be ashamed of in the leaks from the 2008 talks. Despite the spin by Al-Jazeera and critics of the Palestinian Authority, the documents released don't show Palestinian negotiators giving away the store.

To the contrary, they're depicted as taking a surprisingly hard-line stance against giving up massive West Bank settlements such as Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev, Har Homa and Ariel, which most experts have long presumed would be retained by Israel with little fuss or cost.

Yes, Palestinians appear to have agreed to concede most of the large Jewish developments that are located across the Green Line in areas that are today considered part of Jerusalem. In a quip he likely now regrets, chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said the offer provided Israel with the "largest Jerusalem in the history of the Jewish people."

But giving Jewish areas of Jerusalem to Israel and Palestinian areas to the Palestinian Authority is an idea that been supported widely for years, since it was proposed by President Clinton.

Also, many of those developments were never historically part of what Palestinians considered to be inside the borders of Jerusalem. Much was rural West Bank land that only became part of Jerusalem when Israel annexed it after the 1967 Six-Day War and substantially increased the borders of Jerusalem. So although those areas were clearly part of the West Bank, they shouldn't necessarily carry the same emotional attachment for Palestinians or Arabs worldwide as the Old City or the historic parts of East Jerusalem. And rather than give away the land in exchange for nothing, as has been widely reported in the Arab press, the documents suggest that Palestinians were demanding in return Maale Adumim, Gival Zeev, Ariel and most other settlements east of Highway 60.

That's such a painful concession for Israel that you have to question whether the Palestinian offer was even serious.

To most Mideast experts, exchanging Jerusalem developments such as Gilo and French Hill for settlements such as Maale Adumim and Ariel sounds like a great deal for Palestinians and a non-starter for Israelis. And that's pretty much how it played out, with Israel's then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni rejecting the offer.

On the key issue of the Old City, which is what most Palestinians and Arabs worldwide care most about, both sides appeared to be prepared to punt the issue and deal with it at a later date, though Erekat was quoted as offering to allow Israel to retain control of the Jewish and Armenian quarters.

Generally, the negotiations appeared largely to have mirrored previous ones that Israelis and Palestinians had been having since Camp David in 2000. The documents so far haven't revealed anything that someone moderately familiar with the Mideast hasn't already heard.

Neither side is shown offering anything very fresh or sweeping, though it appeared the talks were serious, detailed and respectful. And in contrast to the usual Israeli depictions of Palestinians as evasive and always saying no, the documents suggest the Palestinians came to the table prepared to make a deal.

In a blunt self-assessment in January 2010, Erekat was quoted as saying the stakes for the Palestinian Authority in reaching a peace deal had never been higher. "Our credibility has never been so low," he is quoted as saying to U.S. diplomat David Hale. "Now it's about survival."

-- Edmund Sanders

Comments () | Archives (24)

The most interesting feature about this article, and most others describing the situation in the region, is how the illegal occupation of Pal. territory has sunk so deep into peoples minds that the writer can question whether asking to give up a few illegal "settlements" is even a "serious" proposal from the Pal. authorities. And returning some of the stolen land is considered generous by the Israelis: It is not even really holy ground so what's the fuss about?
The whole world has largely agreed on the legitimate borders of Israel and Palestine. However, Israel has with US support continuously stolen more and more land under the false premise of a peace process. All reasonable people can see that this needs to stop right now in order to sustain a just peace between the parties.

There's a clear contradiction here. if, as the headline (incorrectly) says "Leaks from peace talks don't show Palestinians making shocking concessions", then why have the PA sought to distance themselves from the leaks, and why has there been such a furore amongst the palestinians?

The level of concessions made (including the US offer to deport 10,000 Palestinian refugees to Chile!) is not being reported accurately in US media.

"...irrefutable proof that years of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians have been an empty sham". (Los Angeles Times).

Yet, it is Mr. Nabil Sha'ath, a leading Palestinian Arab figure in the negotiations team, stated on al-Jazira TV, in Arabic, that ALL the documents state two important things: (1) "This is a non-paper paper". And, (2) "Northing is agreed (by the parties) until ALL is agreed".

Translation: The "offers" made by the Palestinian Arab team were not official offers, and the Palestinian Arab team refused to agree to anything until and unless all aspects of the negotiations have been agreed by the parties.

What is more interesting is the fact that the Muslim-Arabs, Palestinian Arabs and otherwise, fall over each other trying to deny that they gave up on the long-term ethos of the Muslim-Arab world, that which refuse to accept Israel's RIGHT to be, to exist on ANY parcel of land between the River and the Sea as an independent nation-state of the Jewish people.

None of the Muslim-Arab leaders, local or regional, has been willing to tackle the very CORE ISSUE of the conflict: their categorical and long term refusal to accept Israel's RIGHT to be - to the FACT that it is - to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people, none!

onboard skeptic,greetings.
thank you for your reply to me it helps me understand better when reading these pages,how we all come across to each other.
thank you.
thank you l.a. for printing our replies.


The best word I can think of to describe what you're talking about is "jingoism", which is a patriotic kind of feeling that goes to the extreme. So you see this is how Jehudah ben Israel constantly comes across as. There's no shame in being "normally" patriotic but the extent to which he does it is obnoxious already.

Nothing is true about these documents
As an Israeli I am convinced that there will never be a Palestinian leader who will have the courage to publicly give up "Al KUDS"

@onboard skeptic,greetings.
i am a little confused by your comment jan25,to j ben-israel.
re proud zionist,we are all i expect proud of our countries,even though we all get quite a bit of flack and i oftern speak with people who will sit for some amount of time,singing the praises of their land ie proud american,the great american dream,the united kingdom,holland ,infact all think they are the best and proud of it even those who live else-where normally hang on to their mother country,even though they may have been treated badly.
i expect we all do it,even in some of the worst places on earth people speak proudly of the land in which they live even though quite a lot would like change.
i do not wish to comment on any thing else only to say that the way of the west is not the way of the middle east and things are done in a different way.
but it was your comment that drew my attention.
with best wishes.

Sander's article tries to put a good face on what is undoubtedly shocking to Arabs; that the PA would actually liquidate the newly invented 'Right of Arab Return' modeled after the Israeli Law of Return to Zion for Jews, and that any land/border compromise or swap would be tolerated, never mind acknowledge the existence of a Jewish state. For decades the PLO has created unrealistic expectations among the Arab refugees such that these info releases are welcomed by the few rational and beleagured Arabs, and is fuel for the fire for the radicals. The reason? The word 'compromise' does not exist in Arabic. Its an unknown concept and certainly not applicable to relations with infidels. The article is just Arab propoganda from a reporter who can't even read the releases in their native languages.

Oh brother. The Palestinians shouldn't be disappointed in their leaders giving up half of the West Bank before even sitting down at the negotiation table? Is it possible that Mr. Sanders truly doesn't understand the situation, or is this yet another example of American media spinning things to the benefit of Israel? Israeli ex-Foreign Minister and current head of Kadima Tzipi Livni is now on record, thanks to these leaks, as saying, "Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible . . . the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it had been “the policy of the government for a really long time." [Source: Guardian]

So the Israeli's are looking to essentially ethnically cleanse the West Bank, and the Palestinian Authority is Starting negotiations with the position of "Well, let's ethnically cleanse just half of the West Bank." And on top of that, the leaks show they were ready to accept Israeli demands that any Palestinian "state" have no army, navy, or air force [Source: Informed Comment], making it not exactly an independent state, huh? Yeah...

But sure, you're right, if you were to really selectively read the leaked papers, and if you were a rabid Zionist, then I'm sure you'd find nothing shocking in them at all. It's a great age for journalism; I just wish more journalists were partaking.

From "Jehudah ben Israel" AKA "Shlomzion"......

"Yes, the so called Arab Peace Plan proposes a future recognition of Israel, but only a recognition of the fact that it exists, not its RIGHT to do so, and only when Israel complies with each and every point in this rigid plan, something that by definition will bring about the demise of the Jewish state."

And what of the "Right" of the Palestinians to their own state? Elsewhere you've been called the "mouthpiece" or "spokesman" for the Israeli government. Well, that most certainly comes across with statements like you make here. And yes, I know you call yourself a proud Zionist. Well, go ahead and keep rubbing that in our face.

Despite the spin by Al-Jazeera
Oh so now it is spin..when Al Jazeera talked against Israel it was truth...

Fundamentally disagree with the headline of this article. The truth is the opposite.

The concessions made by the Palestinians are truly shocking. And even then, they weren't enough for Israeli, who wanted more, more and more.

Nation states use Diplomacy for a reason. If left to "the street", any hope for peace would be out the door.

Little can be expected in achieving an accommodation of peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jew, between the Muslim-Arab world and the nation-state of the Jewish people unless and until the Muslim-Arab leadership, local and regional, accept Israel's RIGHT to be, to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Presently none of them is willing to accept Israel's RIGHT - historic, ethical and legal - to exist as the national home of the Jewish people on ANY parcel of land between the River and the Sea.

Yes, the so called Arab Peace Plan proposes a future recognition of Israel, but only a recognition of the fact that it exists, not its RIGHT to do so, and only when Israel complies with each and every point in this rigid plan, something that by definition will bring about the demise of the Jewish state.

Thus, those of us in the West should focus on a single issue if we are to ever see an accommodation of peaceful coexistence: Demand of the Muslim-Arab leadership, local and regional, to state clearly, in Arabic, Hebrew and English, its acceptance of Israel's RIGHT to be, to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people. This act will bring with it a sea change of attitude, both among Jews as well as Arabs and will usher the days during which the details will be easy to deal with.

This statement sums it all up for me, and as it would do so for millions of others...

'And in contrast to the usual Israeli depictions of Palestinians as evasive and always saying no, the documents suggest the Palestinians came to the table prepared to make a deal.'

This is turning up to be like a Greek Comedy....all this drama. When I learned about the leaked documents I was astonished to find such large concessions by the Pal. nobody knows for sure if true or not............but in the meantime, the Status Quo in effect.

as an israeli/jew.
i think the idea of a live debate is a good one we can then also hear from our arab/muslim cousins who would prefere to live side by side with us,instead of being pushed and pulled from one side to another by the terrorist radical islam that they are being forced to back.
but this idea,of live broardcast should be for all people/countries not to single out one because its the fashion.
@atworld,you rearly should brush up on your remarks,and have a good look around you regarding who the terrorists are and have always been,might be an idea to start closer to home.
thank you.

BiBi will never make peace. He is afraid of of the right wing extremists killing him like they did Rabin. He just wants a long term government job, like our politicians.

Does anyone know if special UN envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair does a blessed thing there? The only thing he has produced on the UN dime since being appointed is his memoirs.

Absolutely, peace talk should be held in front of world public, unfortunately Israel government do not recognize her border along 1967 which have been legally enacted by UN and international community and therefore prefer to operate in shadows, Palestinian do not yet have enough constituency in US to force her to be fair, US government throughout her history were forced by her people to be just as it was evident in civil right movement or ending Vietnam war and presently getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, various US citizens from other ethnicity background which do care about Palestinian human rights can join together and change US government policies since not many Palestinians do reside in US compare to Israelis, most of US citizens with western European and Asian and African and S. American background do support Palestinians, they just need to get active and exercise their rights under US constitution!

As an Israeli I think it is a very good idea

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