US: New leaks complicate efforts to forge peace deal

Washington speaks extensively to Palestinian and Israeli officials ahead of Quartet meeting, despite ‘Palestine Papers,' Crowley says.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley 311 (photo credit: US Dept. of State)
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley 311
(photo credit: US Dept. of State)
WASHINGTON – The US State Department acknowledged Monday that the “Palestine Papers,” released by Al-Jazeera, complicated American efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. But it said it wouldn’t slow the Obama administration’s work toward that goal.
“We don’t deny that this release will, at least for a time, make the situation more difficult than it already was,” US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said of the 1,600 confidential documents Al- Jazeera said it had obtained.
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The documents – which outline Palestinian willingness to make concessions on Jerusalem and other final status issues – are said to be from the period of negotiations between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and former prime minister Ehud Olmert.
Abbas and other Palestinian officials have challenged the veracity of some of the documents.
Crowley noted that the documents weren’t American and therefore couldn’t be verified by the US. However, he added that they would have an effect on the political challenges of resolving the conflict “regardless of whether one document is accurate, and one is not.”
Still, he stressed that the United States remained committed to getting the two parties to enter direct negotiations and reach an agreement.
“None of this changes our understanding of what is at stake, or what needs to be done,” Crowley said. “We continue to believe a framework agreement is both possible and necessary. We continue to work with and engage the parties.”
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US officials have spoken extensively to Palestinian and Israeli officials in the past day, according to Crowley, who said their conversations dealt largely with preparing to move forward with next week’s Quartet meeting.
He said the recent document leak was only one further sign of the obstacles that lay ahead.
“We’ve always been clear-eyed about this,” Crowley said. “We knew it would be a difficult challenge, and it doesn’t change the ultimate objective.”
Progressive American Jewish groups seized on the document leaks to push Israel and the Obama administration for more active engagement with the Palestinians.
“These documents – if authentic – highlight a reality that peace process cynics have long sought to deny: Israel has a far-more real ‘partner’ than it has ever been willing to admit. The documents underscore the fact that, sadly, Israel has not capitalized on the opportunity for peace this partner represents,” said a statement from Americans for Peace Now.
“The documents also highlight an uncomfortable truth about the US role in the past decade of peace efforts,” the statement continued.
“The US has not demonstrated real leadership – failing to hold the parties accountable for obstinacy, intransigence, and game-playing.”
Instead, the group said, “The Obama administration must take dramatic, decisive action to create a new negotiating dynamic.”
According to J Street executive director Jeremy Ben- Ami, “We now know from the Palestinian papers released over the weekend by Al-Jazeera that the Palestinian leadership is ready to make painful concessions to achieve a two-state solution.”
He added, however, that the prospects for such a solution had grown dimmer since those negotiations took place.
“We see both publicly – and now from these documents, privately – the ongoing intransigence of the Israeli government,” Ben- Ami said. “Only bold American leadership can lead to the resolution of this conflict, and we urge the president to act now before it is too late.”