Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and officials connected to him had made a point of not commenting all week on the leaks broadcast by Al-Jazeera and published by the Guardian.
But that changed on Wednesday afternoon when Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, speaking in the Knesset plenum as the official representative of the government, praised what the two media outlets call the “Palestine Papers.”
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“When the leaks of Al-Jazeera revealed what the Israeli and Palestinian sides were willing to concede, I saw it as a great blessing,” Erdan said. “When the truth comes to light, it is always a good thing. In the merit of Al- Jazeera’s revelations, we know more of the truth.”
Erdan complained that in past peace processes, Palestinian leaders would say one thing to the world and the opposite to their people. He said ignoring what former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was telling his people in Arabic cost thousands of lives.
But he said that now what the Palestinian leaders said behind closed doors has become part of the public record.
The minister also complained that the Hebrew press had adopted the efforts of Al-Jazeera to harm the Palestinian Authority and help Hamas by downplaying the Israeli concessions that were revealed while inflating Palestinian concessions.
While Erdan was praising Al- Jazeera, MKs on the far Right and Left were condemning the network.
National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari called Al-Jazeera “servants of al-Qaida” and said its reporters shouldn’t be allowed in the Knesset.
MK Afo Agbaria (Hadash) accused Al-Jazeera of seeking to help Netanyahu by harming both the PA and opposition leader Tzipi Livni.
“We need to ask ourselves who benefits from these reports,” he said. “Only the government of Israel and Binyamin Netanyahu.”
Livni told Channel 2 that it was cynical to compare her to Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman just because Al-Jazeera revealed that in her talks with Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei she had offered to swap four Arab border towns for West Bank settlements.
She confirmed the report that she told Qurei that Israel could not allow Ma’aleh Adumim to come under Palestinian control as he had offered, because the Palestinians would murder its residents.
“I never promised that we would suddenly have peace in the form of a new Middle East,” Livni said. “We live in a bad neighborhood.”
She said the Palestine Papers proved that there was a partner that Israel could make a deal with while safeguarding its strategic interests. She said the reports gave people new hope, but she accused Netanyahu of quashing it.
Livni also complained about Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who she said “never contributed to advancing a diplomatic agreement, and helped the formation of a government that has a very small chance of reaching one, just in order to be defense minister.”