There are a number of key points to keep in mind when reading the Palestinian
documents leaked to Al-Jazeera, and then shared by that news organization with
the Guardian newspaper.
• First, WikiLeaks it ain’t.
While many of
the US diplomatic cables published on the WikiLeaks site were written by
relatively objective US observers in capitals around the world, the PaliLeaks
documents were written by a party to the negotiations – invested in the
negotiations – who present a Palestinian perspective of events that
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• It is not clear if, or how, the documents were
With the WikiLeaks cables, one reads the entire US diplomatic
cable, complete with all the diplomatic shorthand (like GOI for Government of
Here, the reader does not know exactly what kind of document one
is reading – whether it is the full document, or if not, what has been left
Just as all knowledgeable media consumers know not to take what is
reported on Al- Jazeera as eternal truth, but to strain it through layers of
skepticism to filter out the network’s own agenda (the same is true, to a lesser
extent, with the Guardian
’s reporting on the Middle East), that same mechanism
must kick in when analyzing these documents.
Why is Al-Jazeera releasing
the documents? Which documents is it releasing? What is Qatar’s agenda?
Remember, Al-Jazeera is funded by Qatar, which is quarreling with Saudi Arabia,
trying to cover its bets with Iran, and known for its sympathy for Hamas. Qatar,
and thereby Al-Jazeera, is not necessarily guided by a desire to see success in
• The Israeli public does not pay enough serious
attention to what the Palestinians say.
One of the glaring elements in
the documents has to do with the Palestinian position on Ma’aleh
Since a parade of Israeli politicians, from Yossi Sarid and Yossi
Beilin on the Left, to Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon in the Center, have said in
the past that Ma’aleh Adumim will be part of Israel in any future agreement,
there is a tendency among the Israeli public to believe that this is indeed what
eventually will transpire.
Read these documents, however, and it becomes
clear that this given – it even appeared in the Geneva Accords – is no given at
The Palestinians are adamantly opposed to Israel annexing Ma’aleh
Adumim, as well as Ariel, and give no indication of softening that
This is a bit reminiscent of the rude awakening many Israelis
had in 1993, after the Oslo Accords. Much of the public had convinced itself
that there was no way in the world the Palestinians could really believe that
under a peace agreement, the Palestinian refugees would be allowed back into
Israel – only to wake up and find that, indeed, the Palestinians really believed
Not only did they believe it, but they were going to battle for
• There is not that much new there, though just a
After the dust settles, it will become apparent that there is
nothing earth-shatteringly new in the documents. That the Palestinians were
willing to let Israel annex the Jewish neighborhoods over the Green Line, with
the exception of Har Homa, is not new, nor a sign – whatever Al-Jazeera and the
would have one believe – of unsurpassed flexibility.
discussed at Camp David, and enshrined in the Clinton parameter formula – that
the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem would be under Israeli sovereignty, and
the Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty.
It was part of the
2003 Geneva Accord, as well as one of the principles of the 2002 agreement drawn
up by Ami Ayalon and Sari Nusseibeh.
If anything, the Palestinian demand
in the documents for Har Homa is a step back from this
Furthermore, that there was discussion regarding “a creative
solution to the issue of the Holy Basin” should not been seen as a sign of great
Palestinian elasticity, since everyone knows that ideas about this were
discussed as far back as 2000 (if not earlier) by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak
at Camp David.
One new element that emerged, or an element that the
public might not be aware of, is a Palestinian willingness to let the
settlements remain in a future Palestinian state, if the Jews living there agree
to live under Palestinian sovereignty.
The default setting among Israelis
when talking about a future agreement was that all settlements have to be
evacuated and all Jews moved out, as was done in Sinai and Gaza.
one reads the documents and hears Ahmed Qurei saying the Jews can stay. That,
for many, will seem new.
Will they be safe? That is a completely
different question – which Tzipi Livni answers in the negative in the documents.
But the PA is not – at least according to these documents – demanding a state
totally free of Jews.
• The PA reaction shows we’re moving
Rather than taking the publication of the documents and saying
loudly and proudly that this shows a willingness to give up on maximalist
Palestinian demands, the PA reaction was the complete opposite. It was to deny
everything, and to say that the PA would not give in an inch.
The documents, like WikiLeaks, show again the huge gap between
what Arab leaders say in public and what they say in private. In the WikiLeaks
documents, this was seen in how Arab leaders talked about Iran behind closed
doors, compared to what they said in front of the microphones.
can be seen here.
In public it is “not one inch,” though in private the
tone is somewhat different.
The PA had the chance Monday to say in public
what it apparently said in private: that it was not cleaving to the last grain
But it failed the test – something that doesn’t bode well for