The Palestine papers: Al-Jazeera trumps WikiLeaks
Palestinian documents on Mideast negotiations revealed by Al-Jazeera TV are testimony that the Palestinians are willing to go the distance for peace.
While the leaked documents on Middle East negotiations are received in Israel and in the world as incisive evidence of the moderate positions of the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, the Hamas leadership as well as Abbas' rivals in Fatah will see the documents as additional proof of what they call the "defeatism" of the PA.
Abbas is constantly treading the thin line between his will to acquire the sympathy of the Israeli and international public and his need to guard his back from the knives of his rivals at home.
The rumors of Abbas' plan to retire in the coming year have kicked off a succession battle. Not long ago Abbas declared war on Mohammed Dahlan, claiming the former Fatah strongman in Gaza was planning a coup d’état. And Dahlan isn't the only Fatah politico who will have recorded and saved Al-Jazeera's special Sunday night broadcast.
The documents revealed by Al Jazeera are much more important than the documents recently released by WikiLeaks. The former document the talks that took place in 2008 between the head of the Palestinian negotiating team and then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as with American officials, which is not just a chapter in history.
The compromises presented by the Palestinians vis-a-vis permanent borders in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are relevant to today. The Palestinian map that was shown to Ehud Olmert and representatives of the Bush administration was presented again two months ago to representatives of President Barack Obama, as well as Obama’s Mideast envoy George Mitchell and later Netanyahu’s representative Isaac Molcho. Molcho refused to accept the document.
The leaked documents completely discredit the claim that there is "no peace partner" made by the leader of the newly formed Atzmaut faction, Ehud Barak, and his boss, Benjamin Netanyahu.
The documents are testimony that the Palestinians are willing to go the distance for peace: They will relinquish their claims on the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, the Etzion settlement bloc and the settlements along the Green Line. This would all be in return for territories on the western side of this line, including the region of Gilboa and Mount Hebron.
According to a map that was shown to me two weeks ago, the major territorial disputes remain over Ariel, Elkana, Ma’aleh Adumim and the Har Homa suburb of East Jerusalem (which was built after the 1993 Oslo Accords).
The documents in Al-Jazeera’s hands also confirm that the Palestinian leadership would be willing to abdicate sole autonomy in the Old City of Jerusalem and keep it under special rule.
The timing of the document leaks raises suspicions that the temporary Palestinian State border plan, submitted by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, was submitted as a pre-emptive strike against the Palestinian draft. A deeper look into the content of the documents reveals a significant gap between the Palestinian expectations, and the pittance that Lieberman has thrown at them in his proposal.
After reading the documents, calling Lieberman's drivel a "national plan" would be like calling the parliamentary investigation into left-wing organizations an initiative geared towards increasing transparency in NGOs in Israel.
The map that Lieberman has "offered" the Palestinians as an interim arrangement (45-50 percent of the West Bank with land swaps) cannot hold a candle to the map that Ehud Barak and former President Bill Clinton offered them (94-96 percent, plus passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank). Lieberman's map also falls far short of the map that Olmert presented Abbas (93.5 percent plus the passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank).
On Sunday, the New York Times published a map created by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which included territories within the Green Line that Israel would give the Palestinians in exchange for settlement blocs. Mokovsky's office is next-door to Dennis Ross, Obama's chief adviser in the peace process.
The Al-Jazeera documents and Lieberman’s plan will both be presented to the Quartet of Mideast negotiators, a group of representatives from the U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations, who will meet in two weeks on how to pull negotiations from their current impasse.
It certainly isn't hard to tell which document will impress them more.