PA, with US backing, delayed UN vote on Goldstone

Al-Jazeera claims Abbas, Erekat agreed to help Israel after Operation Cast Lead in exchange for US assurances in peace negotiation.

January 26, 2011 23:52
4 minute read.
operation cast lead

operation cast lead. (photo credit: Associated Press)

The Palestinian Authority, with US encouragement, delayed a vote in the United Nations on the Goldstone Report on war crimes allegedly committed during Operation Cast Lead, according to secret documents obtained by the Al- Jazeera news channel.

The station also claimed that PA President Mahmoud Abbas knew in advance of Israel’s intention to go to war.

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The latest revelations came on the fourth day of Al-Jazeera’s dramatic revelations.

The latest revelations came on the fourth day of Al- Jazeera’s dramatic revelations.

“What the ‘Palestine Papers’ demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the US apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel,” Al-Jazeera said, referring to the leaked documents.

According to documents obtained by the station, at a September 24, 2009, meeting between PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, US envoy George Mitchell and his assistant David Hale, the latter informed Erekat that “our intention is to move quickly to relaunch negotiations. We are wrapping up an agreement on a package with Israel, and including other parties.”

At end of the meeting, Mitchell invited Erekat to Washington on the day before the UN Human Rights Council was due to vote on the Goldstone Report.

The Palestine Papers further divulge that during the exact time of the crucial UNHRC vote, Erekat was in Washington seeking more guarantees from the US, Al-Jazeera reported.

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During a meeting with Mitchell and Hale on October 1, 2009, Mitchell reiterated to Erekat not only Washington’s commitment to a new round of talks but also US willingness to take a more active role on behalf of the Palestinians, Al-Jazeera said.

Mitchell, according to the documents, said the US would “explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem (nonrecognition of Israeli annexation and related actions, demolitions, evictions etc.). In such a situation, with negotiations going on, if [Israel] makes a provocative announcement, the US has the leverage to state that this undermines the process, and that Israel is acting in bad faith in the negotiations.”

The following day, while Abbas was in New York pushing to postpone the vote on Goldstone, Erekat again met with Mitchell. This time, Al-Jazeera said, Erekat “appeared to use the expected international backlash to the vote deferral as a bargaining chip in proving their commitment to peace talks.”

Erekat was quoted by Al-Jazeera as telling the Americans, “We find ourselves in the eye of the storm. We pray every day that Israel will come to the point where they realize that a Palestinian state on the [1967] border is in their interest... That’s why we are frustrated.  We want to help the Israelis.”

According to Al-Jazeera, Mitchell presented Erekat with a document “containing language that, if agreed to, would nullify one of the PA’s few weapons – the chance to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.”

The US language stated: “The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”

Al-Jazeera added that Erekat, Abbas and the PA accepted the language and simultaneously agreed to call for a deferral of the vote on the Goldstone Report.

With regard to Operation Cast Lead, the Palestine Papers show that Erekat told Mitchell in October, 2009, that senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad “alerted” Abbas prior to the war.

One of the documents quoted Erekat as saying, “Our trust with the [Israeli] government is zero. Amos [Gilad] spoke to Lieberman [the Israeli foreign minister] – told them about the claim that Abu Mazen [Abbas] was colluding with them in the Gaza war. He went to Abu Mazen before the attack and asked him. Abu Mazen replied that he will not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank. Amos Gilad testified about that. He was honest.”

Al-Jazeera said that its documents showed that Gilad held several conversations with PA negotiators on the situation in Gaza prior to the war.

Meanwhile, Erekat on Wednesday said that a former CIA agent and a former EU official were responsible for leaking the Palestine Papers. Erekat’s comments came in an interview aired on Al-Jazeera.

He claimed US citizen Clayton Swisher and British citizen Alastair Crooke were responsible for leaking the documents to Al-Jazeera.

Swisher used to work in Erekat’s office but left after six months and began working at Al-Jazeera.

Erekat said that he had demanded the US State Department investigate the leak.

Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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