Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to concede almost all Jewish areas of East Jerusalem to Israel, the Guardian newspaper and Al-Jazeera TV reported on Saturday. As many as 1,600 Palestinian documents on peace talks with Israel, obtained by Al Jazeera TV and given to the Guardian, covering more than a decade of exchanges, provide a unique look into the breakdown of the peace process.
The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel's annexation of all but one of the neighborhoods, Har Homa, built in East Jerusalem.
This was one in a series of concessions made to Israel by Palestinian negotiators in an effort to move closer to independent statehood. The documents give the impression of a weakened Palestinian Authority and growing desperation among its leaders because of impasses in talks and the growing strength of Hamas.
Israeli negotiators come across in the minutes as confident while U.S. politicians seem dismissive toward Palestinian representatives, according to the Guardian.
PA leadership may have difficulty explaining the revelations to a public not ready to offer the same concessions. The documents cover sensitive issues like the right of return of Palestinian refugees, the close cooperation between Israel and Palestinian Authority Security forces, land swaps in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and of Israeli warnings to the PA of the imminent invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008-09.
Al-Jazeera TV reported that the Palestinian Authority offered Israel all settlements in Jerusalem except Har Homa on June 15, 2008.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, also proposed in an October 2009 meeting that Jerusalem's Old City be divided, ceding Israel control over the Jewish Quarter and part of the Armenian Quarter.
Further details reveal a Palestinian agreement to the return of only 100,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel, and that Erekat agreed to the Israeli demand of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.
The documents also reveal that the Palestinian negotiators, in an effort to move forward on the hyper-sensitive issue of the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem, proposed a joint committee to administer the Temple Mount.
The offers were made in 2008, in the wake of the Annapolis conference, and were privately hailed by chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat as giving Israel "the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in history."
Israeli leaders, backed by the U.S. government, said the offers were inadequate.
The leaked documents - drawn up by PA officials and lawyers working for the British-funded PLO negotiations support unit - include extensive verbatim transcripts of private meetings. Many were independently authenticated by the Guardian and corroborated by former participants in the talks and intelligence and diplomatic sources, the newspaper reported.
Cables from the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem and the embassy in Tel Aviv recently released by WikiLeaks were used to confirm some of the information.
According to the documents, in May 2008 Palestinian leaders agreed to allow Israel to annex Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.
Erekat told Israeli leaders in 2008 that "this is the first time in Palestinian-Israeli history in which such a suggestion is officially made."
Nonetheless, the offer was rejected out of hand by Israel because it did not include Ma'aleh Adumim, as well as Har Homa and Ariel, which is located deeper in the West Bank.
"We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands," then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, told the Palestinians, "and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it."
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