Archive | January 27th, 2011

The Palestine Papers and Us


I have a rule — I never intervene in Palestinian political matters. I never comment on Palestinian internal debate. I do not think that I have the right to do so : I am an ex-Israeli and an ex-Jew, and I write about Israel, Jewish Identity politics, and Zionism.
For me, the leaked Palestinian Papers provide us with a valuable glimpse into Israeli politics and Western complicity in the crimes carried out against the Palestinian people.  I do realise that most Palestinian commentators agree that the leaked papers have “damaged whatever little credibility the Ramallah-based authority still enjoyed among Palestinians” ; yet, more than anything else, the Papers prove beyond doubt that Israel is  not a partner for peace — In spite of the weaknesses that have been shown by the PA since the 1990’s, Israel has failed to secure a peace deal, and has consistently failed to show any will to bring the conflict to an end. In short — Israel has always wanted more.
The Papers have also clearly shown that whilst Israel likes to present an image of ‘political pluralism’ , that is little more than a deception : there is not much difference at all between  Tzipi Livni and Avigdor Lieberman. Both are Zionist enthusiasts, and both are interested in a ‘Jews only state’ — Indeed, just like Lieberman Livni too,offered to “transfer Israeli Arabs.”
Yesterday, we learned that as far back as 2004, the British MI6 was assisting the PA in the war against Hamas :  according to The Guardian “The Palestinian Authority’s security strategy to crush Hamas and other armed groups on the West Bank was originally drawn up by Britain’s intelligence service, MI6”.
So, at the time that the British Government was supposedly advocating “democracy” in Palestine, the reality was quite different : British ‘James Bonds’ were investing enormous effort in trying to destroy the rising political power in Palestine. One may wonder : what kind of ‘British interests’ was the MI6 serving in doing so ?  It is far from being a secret that  in 2004 Tony Blair  was primarily funded by Labour Friends of Israel ; his NO 1 fund raiser  was Lord Levy.
The Palestinian  people will liberate themselves eventually — but it is also about time we all liberate ourselves from the grip of Israeli and Jewish lobbies.

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PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote



PA, with US encouragement, delayed a UN vote on the Goldstone Report into war crimes committed during Israel’s Gaza war.
S. Farhan Mustafa
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2011


The Palestine Papers reveal the conversations between US and PA officials in the days before the vote [EPA]

On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.

Quid pro quo

The Goldstone Report, formally known as the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released in mid-September 2009 amid calls for a review of Israel’s wartime practices. The probe was led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge; it identified war crimes committed overwhelmingly by Israeli forces, but also by Hamas, during Israel’s war on Gaza.

“Bad faith”Both the United States and Israel were outspoken in their criticism of the report, claiming that any UN endorsement would endanger the peace process and future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already admitted that the PA asked for the postponement; he said at the time it was to secure more international support before the vote.

“Since we felt we would not be able to gather enough support we asked for the postponement,” Abbas said in October 2009. “We wanted to reach mechanisms that would ensure the implementation of the decision and punish the perpetrators of crimes against our people.”

What The Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.

At a September 24, 2009 meeting between Saeb Erekat, George Mitchell and 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.”

Erekat resisted, saying “I simply cannot afford to go into a process that is bound to fail. I am trying to defend my existence and way of life.” Mitchell informs Erekat that President Barack Obama’s “attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations; delay will not be beneficial to anyone.”

During the same meeting, the U.S. also stressed to the PA that it was actively engaged in supporting the PA through other means. Mitchell informs Erekat, “I’ve devoted half my time over the last several months to things like getting you support (for example with Kuwait), not just financial. We will stay the course on this.”

At end of the meeting, Mitchell invites Erekat to Washington, D.C., on the day before the UNHRC was due to vote on the Goldstone report. “Regarding coming to DC next week…you should come next Friday,” Mitchell said. Erekat resisted, countering, “That does not give us enough time to go back and consult…”

The Palestine Papers further divulge that during the exact time of the crucial UNHRC vote, Erekat was in Washington, D.C. seeking more guarantees from the United States.

During a meeting at the U.S. State Department with Mitchell and Hale, on October 1, 2009, Mitchell reiterated to Erekat not only the U.S.’s commitment to a new round of talks, but also U.S. willingness to take a more active role on behalf of the Palestinians.

Mitchell said the U.S. would “explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem (non-recognition of Israeli annexation and related actions; demolitions, evictions etc.) In such a situation, with negotiations going on, if [Israel] make 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.”

Erekat further bared not only the PA’s reliance on the United States, but the PA’s desperation to get back to the negotiation table. Erekat informs Mitchell that “peace through negotiations is a strategic choice… Our whole future depends on it, and we are counting on the US to help us… Another failure will be devastating.”

The following day, on October 2, 2009– while President Abbas was in New York pushing to postpone the vote on Goldstone – Erekat again met with Senator Mitchell. This time, Erekat appeared to use the expected international backlash to the vote deferral as a bargaining chip in proving their commitment to peace talks.

“I did not come here to complain, but to try to help move forward,” Erekat told Mitchell. “Many people strongly objected to [Abu Mazen] going to NYC and me coming to Washington.”

Mitchell continued building a case to Erekat and the PA on why all parties should move quickly to negotiations. “For 60 years, the choices open to the Palestinian people have become less and less attractive,” Mitchell said. “The circumstance under which they live worse and worse…..Believe me it is the best time.”

Erekat, meanwhile, only seemed to further push Palestinian priorities behind those of even Israel. “We find ourselves in the eye of the storm,” Erekat lamented to Mitchell. “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.”

At the very same meeting, Senator 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 U.S. 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.”

Erekat, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority accepted the language and simultaneously agreed to call for a deferral of the UNHRC vote. Unsurprisingly, this decision was met by outrage, as Palestinians and Arab nations condemned the PA leadership for kowtowing yet again to American and Israeli pressure.

Israel leaked the PA’s support for the resolution deferral on the day before the UNHRC vote was to take place. Erekat, undoubtedly caught off-guard, was outspoken in his complaints weeks later to the U.S. on what he perceived as unfair Israeli tactics. In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones on October 21, 2009, Erekat revealed:

“Then came Goldstone and all hell broke loose. You know the first public response to the Goldstone thing came from Lieberman, who said Abu Mazen agreed to postpone the vote because the Israelis threatened to release the “tapes” showing him coordinating the attack on Gaza with Israel. Then there was the report that he did it for Wataniya, which they said is owned by his two sons.”

Jones, however, was quick to assure Erekat that the PA’s efforts would not go unnoticed. “And thank you for what you did a couple weeks ago,” Jones told Erekat. “It was very courageous.”

That same day, Erekat also met with Mitchell, and wasted no time in asking for the U.S. to deliver on its previous promises.

Erekat: When can you give me something, a document or a package, so I can take it to [Abu Mazen], so we can study it in good faith?

Mitchell: Much of what I read is not controversial…

For the United States, and unfortunately for the PA, it was simply business as usual.

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The threat of a one-state solution


PA negotiators are increasingly proposing an idea that’s met with derision from Israelis, sharp criticism from the US.

David Poort

Last Modified: 26 Jan 2011


Erekat raised the one-state option during several 2009 meetings with US envoy George Mitchell [EPA]

Palestinian negotiators are more frequently threatening to abandon the goal of a two-state solution in their conflict with Israel and are pushing for a one-state option instead.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) is very well aware that a one-state solution constitutes a threat to Israel, and has used the threat during half a dozen meetings documented in The Palestine Papers.

The two-state solution remains the conceptual basis for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. However, as it has failed to accomplish a final agreement, Palestinian interest in a one-state solution has seemingly grown.

The one-state solution is generally presented as a nightmare scenario for Israel. The likelihood that Palestinians might one day constitute an electoral majority in a bi-national state – which is seen as inevitable – is viewed by many Israeli Jews as a threat to the ‘Jewish character’ of the country.

Quoted in a post-Annapolis interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz in November 2007, Ehud Olmert, the then-prime minister, warned of the implications of a one-state solution.

“If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.”

The Palestine Papers reveal that from the run up to the Annapolis talks in 2007 onwards, the PA has increasingly used the one-state solution ‘threat’ during negotiations with Israeli and American officials.

In an April 2008 meeting between Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, and Ahmed Qurei, the former PA prime minister, Israel proposed land-swaps that, according to the Palestinians, did not abide by the 1967 borders. When met with the one-state solution threat, Livni was quick to change her tone:

Qurei: I agreed to listen to your propositions because I thought you would come with realistic propositions. In light of these circumstances and these unrealistic propositions, I see that the only solution is a bi-national state where Moslems, Christians and Jews live together […] Is our demand for 1967 borders too much for us?

Livni: I did not say it is too much for you.

Round after round of failed peace talks and a simultaneous increase in illegal Jewish settlements have left the Palestinians desperate for an alternative solution. The one-state approach has therefore evolved from a mere threat to a serious option for many Palestinians.

At the end of 2009, an internal Palestinian memo urged the PA to develop the one-state option as a “credible alternative to the traditional two-state solution”.

On October 2, 2009, during a meeting at the State Department with George Mitchell, the US Middle East envoy, a clearly frustrated Erekat, the chief PA negotiator, began referring to the one-state solution as a so-called BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement, should settlement construction continue in the West Bank. The US, a long-time ally of Israel, urged the Palestinians to continue direct negotiations with Israel despite the continued settlement activity.

Erekat: It is the last time for the two states. My option, the BATNA, if all this goes down, is the one state.

Mitchell: That is your decision. But the fact is that you have a president [Barack Obama] committed to this issue. […] I understand the frustration and the burden of history but please don’t let this opportunity slip by.


Mitchell: I have a 6 inch folder on my desk containing all your statements on the settlement freeze, and despite that you negotiated. Now with the first president who wants to make an effort – he’s being penalised by you.

Erekat: Not me. He has Netanyahu [Israeli prime minister]. He came to Cairo and said full freeze. We will not convert to Judaism, so if Netanyahu’s charade of two states is followed, it’s going to be one state.

Erekat’s meeting with Robert Serry, the UN special envoy to the PA, on October 13, 2009, was a clear indicator of the frustration within the Palestinian leadership:

Erekat: I told the Americans, if you take me down this process, you will do the following: you will crown Netanyahu king for years; you will doom even Sharon’s line [former prime minister]; you will kill Livni; we enter negotiations, then Bibi [Netanyahu] announces building in Jerusalem, and the negotiations collapse. I asked them for a change of approach. This time there is absolutely no force on earth that will push us down this path. I told them we have our BATNA. We will not repeat what Arafat did. We will continue to maintain security, one authority, one gun, rule of law, but we will demand equal rights in one state…

Within the same month, on October 21, Erekat repeated his threat to Mitchell to opt for the one-state solution if Israel continued to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

Erekat: We know what it take[s], after 19 years. They [the Israelis] cannot decide if they want two states. They want to keep settling in the areas of my state.

Mitchell: But they will settle more if you continue this way.

Erekat: Then we announce the one state and the struggle for equality in the state of Israel. If our state will not be viable and will have the wall we will fight against apartheid. You either have a decision for peace or a decision for settlements. You cannot have both.

Mitchell responded by warning Erekat that a push for a bi-national state would cause the US government to abandon its role as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Mitchell: You’ve expressed your frustration over the last 19 years. But I tell you there has never been a president on this issue like this one. You are denying him the opportunity to create the state that you want. By saying one state you are telling him to get out […].

Despite both peoples’ majority preference for separation – an Israeli state, and a contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza – support for the one-state option is seen to be on the rise.

A poll released in April 2010 by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre, for example, found 34 per cent support for a bi-national state, up from 21 per cent in June 2009. An October 2010 pollf from the Palestine Center for Policy and Survey Research found 27 per cent support for a one-state option, up from 23 per cent in May 2009.

In 2003, Muammar Qadafi wasone of the first Arab leaders to publicly endorse a one-state solution, which he named ‘Isratine’ [a combination of the words ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’]. Qadafi argued that a two-state option would create unacceptable security hazards for Israel on the one hand, and would do little to address the issue of the Palestinian refugees on the other.

The ‘Isratine’ proposal may have seemed far-fetched at the time; however, with the recent Israeli announcements of yet more illegal settlement construction in the West Bank, and given the current status of the so-called peace process, Qadafi’s vision of a single state for Palestinians and Israelis seems ever the more imminent.

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Erekat ‘told Amr Moussa to behave’


PA is bluntly critical of many Arab states, particularly Egyptian efforts to broker a deal between Hamas and Fatah.

Amira Howeidy

Last Modified: 26 Jan 2011


Despite the support of the vast majority of Arab states to the Palestinian Authority, especially in its rivalry with Hamas, The Palestine Papers reveal many instances where the Palestinians are strongly critical of Arab governments. A lot of the denunciation is surprisingly directed at Egypt more so than Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

The Palestinians are also quoted objecting to Arab reconciliation efforts.

In the minutes that were leaked to Al Jazeera, all the complaining of -even incitement against- the Arabs is voiced to the Americans.

The highlight of this resentment was the fallout in the aftermath of the PA’s decision in October 2009 to defer a vote by the United Nations Human Rights Council to refer the Goldstone report on the war in Gaza (which accuses Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes) to the UN General Assembly. The deferral provoked such an uproar that PA chairman Mahmoud Abass was forced to retract the Palestinian position and have the UNHCR hold a special meeting to endorse the report, which was then referred to the UN General Assembly in November 2009. But the damage the PA had done to its image was irreversible. The Arabs weren’t supportive.

According to chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit told him “candidly in public” that “Goldstone finished you. You’re finished,” as documented in the minutes. A frustrated Erekat complains bitterly about this twice on 20 October 2009 to US envoy George Mitchel, then in another meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And a third time the following day to US national security advisor James Jones.

In the same meeting with Mitchel, Erekat presents the situation in Egypt at that time as hostile to the PA, given the “power” of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas and satellite channels directed at them, and concluded: “it’s a parallel government in Egypt. You need to speak to the Arabs about that.”

He blames Mitchell for doing “nothing” about Qatar who’s prince, he says, “personally” calls Arab intellectuals “telling them to attack Abass.” Erekat alludes this to what he thinks is Abass’s refusal to move the Cairo-sponsored Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks to Doha. “Your ally is conducing a personal campaign against it,” he tells Mitchell.

The minutes quote Erekat, in a meeting with Mitchell (October 20, 2009), referring to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah’s relations with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal with discernable cynicism.

Erekat’s frustration with the Saudis explains itself better in the minutes of his meeting with Jones and national security council special assistant to the president Dennis Ross on 21 October 2009. Although Riyadh supports and provides funding for the PA, it appears from the minutes that it was only with the “help” of the Americans that the Palestinians got $200 million from the Saudis at that time. Saudi Arabia, it seems, wasn’t giving the PA the kind of treatment it expected, probably a sense of superiority over Hamas. Says Erekat “the Saudis are too busy equating us with Hamas,” referring to Riyadh’s balanced relations with both Fatah and the Islamic resistance movement.

He adds that while the Saudis are “also crucial…With Iran, Hizbullah, Syria – jumping around the region. They are doing nothing” and that Abbas is “doing Saudi Arabia’s job.”

“The region is slipping away like sand our hands,” Erekat concludes.

So when Jones replies in agreement, Erekat suggests that they put “together” a “matrix of interests” to see where “we” stand, meaning the Palestinians and the Americans. Here he raises an issue that is surprisingly a source of concern for him: “there’s a pattern of Arab reconciliation,” referring to meetings between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria which began in Riyadh, March 2009, followed by an Arab League meeting in Doha, April, which emphasized inter-Arab rapprochement.

“We pay the price. The pattern must stop,” Erekat declares.

What the minutes actually reveal here is that almost 18 years into the (failed) peace process, the Palestinians have edged too closely towards the Americans, to the detriment of their relations with the Arabs. On the other hand they oppose any level of new Israeli-Arab rapprochement they’re not central to.

So when Turkey hosted and mediated indirect talks between Syria and Israel in the summer of 2008, Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei protested to the Americans. The minutes quote him tell US national security advisor Stephen Hadley on 29 July 2008 that if Israel thinks peace with Syria is “less costly then they are wrong.”

More revealing is the recurrence of Palestinian criticism of Egypt in the Palestine Papers which focuses largely on Cairo’s inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts.

In October 2009 Egypt presented the ‘National Palestinian Reconciliation Agreement.’ The agreement outlined the formation of a national unity government and the restructuring of the security apparatuses based in Gaza and the West Bank which practically gave Abass the upper hand in security control. It also criminalized the use of weapons in any form of activity that’s not strictly within the role of the security apparatus, i.e. resistance operations. What irked the PA so much however, was that the agreement suggested the formation of a committee that included both Hamas and Islamic Jihad among other factions to “run” Gaza under the political umbrella of Abbas until presidential elections are held in January 2010. Although the committee has no political obligations, it gave Hamas and Jihad legitimacy in Gaza.

In minutes of a meeting between Erekat and Mitchell on 2 October 2009, Erekat informs the US envoy that Abass will meet Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in three days. He warns him that Abass “won’t say no to whatever” the Egyptians offer him. And demanded that the Americans should call the Egyptians and “make sure that whatever they put in the paper won’t result in the return of the siege.”

Erekat had not yet seen the Egyptian agreement, but by “siege” he was alluding to the possibility that the paper would result in a national unity government that includes Hamas and jeopardize foreign funding. Following the formation of a Hamas majority government in 2006, Israel and the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and the UN) imposed economic sanctions against the Palestinians. The sanctions were lifted only after the fallout between Fatah and Hamas and the latter’s takeover of Gaza in June 2007.

Erekat thus tells Mitchell: “We don’t want any surprises… Just make sure that you see the material before they present it,” Hamas, he adds “can’t be back in the West Bank.”

In another meeting on 21 October 2009 Erekat tells Jones and Ross they “should” tell Egypt next time they have a paper, they must share it with the Americans and “your legal adviser has to review it.” To which Ross replies, “I can tell you we did put pressure on the Egyptians. I read the document (on reconciliation) it’s a disaster. We were blunt…”

Not only do the minutes exhibit mistrust of the Egyptians, Erekat’s words betray a language of defiance. In the same meeting he says “I hope the Egyptians see us now in action. We didn’t want to let them off the hook.”

In other minutes, the Palestinians bluntly say they don’t trust Cairo. “Egypt is allowing the tunnels to continue” Erekat tells Keith Dayton (24 June 2007). Then in an email document on 3 February 2008, Erekat is quoted saying that Abbas’s chief of staff, Rafiq Al-Hussaini is “not very confident” on “trusting every single world that the Egyptians are saying, especially when it comes to Hamas” regarding their control of the Rafah border crossing.

Hamas might be the PA’s arch nemesis and some Arab states untrustworthy or have “bad blood” (January 17, 2008 ) with the Palestinians, but in the minutes, it is Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa who gets the lion share of denigration. “I told Amr Moussa to behave well,” Erekat tells US State Department official David Welch (December 2, 2008) after Moussa attacked all the Palestinian parties –including the PA- in a ministerial meeting at the Arab League in September 2008.

“I told him there are millions of dollars turned around from Gaza in the past, and the people are starving there, if you want me to tell Al-Jazeera. So he decided to behave well.”

Amira Howeidy has been an Egyptian journalist since 1992. She has published extensively on Palestinian rights, human rights, civil liberties, Egypt’s domestic scene and dissent movements. Amira is currently assistant editor-in-chief of the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Weekly Newspaper and is the Cairo correspondent of the Lebanese daily Assafir. She co-authored a book on Informal Settlements in Greater Cairo and co-produced the award-winning documentary Geuvara ‘ash (Geuvra lives) in 2009.

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Gaza war report was stalled by Palestinian Authority on US request



Papers reveal PA held up Goldstone report from UN security council and suggest Abbas was warned of 2008 invasion.

  • 26 January 2011

    Footage from al-Jazeera on the leaked Palestine Papers describes how the US influenced Palestinian negotiators, as anger over the leaks grows in Hamas-contolled Gaza Link to this video

    Palestinian Authority leaders co-operated with US officials in a bid to postpone the reference of the Goldstone report into war crimes in Gaza to the UN security council, leaked papers reveal. The PA, who have denied they made the decision under US pressure, later reversed their decision.

    The postponement of the report into Israel‘s 2008 assault on Gaza triggered heavy criticism of the PA leadership, at one time threatening Abbas’s position. But at a meeting on 21 October 2009, three weeks after the Goldstone scandal erupted, US national security adviser Jim Jones told the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: “Thank you for what you did a couple of weeks ago [on Goldstone]; it was very courageous”.

    On the day the reference of the report was delayed, US officials presented Palestinian negotiators with a “non paper” [a proposal that is off the record in diplomatic terms] committing the PA to “help promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations … [and] refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere”.

    Erekat’s response was to tell Mitchell: “On going to the UN we will always co-ordinate with you.”

    The papers also reveal new evidence of contact between Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, the Palestinian president, and Amos Gilad, a senior Israeli defence ministry official and senior negotiator, before the the launch of Israel’s assault in late 2008. It remains unclear whether he had advance warning of the impending assault, which he has always denied.

    Contacted by Gilad before the war, “Abu Mazen replied that he will not go to Gaza on an Israeli tank,” the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told the US envoy George Mitchell in October 2009.

    Any evidence that PA leaders co-operated with Israel in the attack on the Hamas-controlled territory, which left 1,400 Palestinians dead, would be highly controversial and fuel anger at the western-backed Ramallah-based leadership, especially by its bitter rival, Hamas.

    Earlier this week, Gilad publicly and flatly denied the collusion claim. “No concrete warning concerning an offensive was given to the Palestinian Authority,” he told Israel Radio.

    “I didn’t say anything to President Abbas that I hadn’t said to the entire world: that we could not tolerate the resumption of rocket fire and other terrorist attacks against our territory.”

    Abbas issued a forceful denial late last year when US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks were quoted as reporting that in June 2009 Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, told a US congressional delegation that Israel “had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.” Barak continued: “Not surprisingly…Israel received negative answers from both.”

    Erekat said at the time:”Nobody consulted with us, and that is the truth. Israel doesn’t consult before going to war.”

    The Palestine Papers also record how Gilad and Tzipi Livni, then Israeli foreign minister, had spoken to Palestinian negotiators of the likelihood of a fullscale confrontation over Gaza. “We are on a collision course with Hamas,” Gilad warned them. “You need to be prepared.. Sooner or later they [Hamas] will be taken care of.”

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    Traitor Ahmed Qureia



    Lead Palestinian negotiator in 2008 had close relationship with Yasser Arafat and was known for tolerance and charm

  • Ian Black
  • 23 January 2011 

    Lead Palestinian negotiator in 2008, Ahmed Qurei
    Lead Palestinian negotiator in 2008, Ahmed Qureia often relieved the tensions in talks with light-hearted banter. Photograph: Atef Safadi/EPA

    Ahmed Qureia, better known as Abu Ala, was born in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, in 1937. He joined Yasser Arafat’s Fatah group in 1968 and followed him from Beirut and Damascus to exile in Tunis in 1984, where he headed the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s economic department.

    Arafat sent the trained banker to Washington to serve on the steering committee that advised the official Palestinian negotiators in the 1992 talks. Qu reia also served as chief negotiator for the secret Oslo talks, which led to mutual agreement between Israel and the PLO the following year.

    Back in the West Bank he became the Palestinian Authority’s minister of economy, trade and industry, negotiated further agreements with the Israelis, and was eventually elected as speaker of the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah. He remained chief negotiator in the talks at Camp David and served as prime minister until after the January 2006 elections.

    Qureia was the subject of controversy when it was reported that cement shipped from Egypt by his family’s company was used for building Israel’s West Bank barrier. But Fatah last year dismissed as “fabricated and groundless” an Israeli TV report that he was suspected of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars of PA funds.

    Qureia dedicated a 2008 memoir of his involvement in negotiations to “my late brother” Arafat, remembering his “wisdom and determination in times of calamity” and paying tribute to his “gift for choosing the right path”.

    Acquaintances describe Qureia as tolerant and good-humoured, and the Palestine papers often reveal him relieving the tension of negotiating sessions with light-hearted banter, though a joke that Palestinians should kidnap an Israeli soldier as a bargaining chip in the negotiations was met with stony silence.

    He exhibits great personal charm, and at one point told his Israeli counterpart, the foreign minister Tzipi Livni, that he would vote for her. He also greeted the then US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, with the words: “You bring life to the region when you come.”

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    Traitor Saeb Erekat



    Senior Palestinian negotiator from 2008 who has been involved in talks for nearly 20 years despite lack of street credibility. 


  • Ian Black, Middle East editor
  • 23 January 2011 

    Senior Palestinian negotiator from 2008, Saeb Erekat
    Senior Palestinian negotiator from 2008, Saeb Erekat’s sense of drama has enlivened hundreds of negotiations. Photograph: Muhammed Muheisen/AP

    Saeb Erekat has been negotiating with Israel on and off for nearly 20 years, beginning as vice-chairman of the Palestinian team at the landmark Madrid peace conference in 1991.

    Erekat’s wisecracking style and sense of drama has enlivened hundreds of meetings – although he comes across in the leaked documents as slightly manic and often sarcastic. “Even rabbits have a defence mechanism,” the PLO’s chief negotiator quipped during a discussion of how Palestinians could deal with provocations by Israel.

    Born in Jericho, where he still lives, in 1955, he studied political science in the US and acquired a green card. He lectured at An-Najah University in Nablus before doing a doctorate in peace studies in Bradford. He was placed under house arrest during the first intifada in 1987 and banned by Israel from travelling abroad.

    Erekat resigned as a negotiator when the secret Oslo accords were made public in 1993, but became the only leading West Banker to join Yasser Arafat’s inner circle after the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. He served as a minister and an MP, and took part in the 2000 Camp David and 2001 Taba peace talks.

    With little street credibility and no experience in the armed struggle he has no natural power base in an often brutal political environment, but remains a member of the influential Fatah central committee. He has held on to his position despite efforts by rivals to break what one US report described as his “near monopoly on the negotiating process”. Aaron David Miller, a veteran American negotiator, recalled in his memoirs how in Oslo in 1998 he witnessed “Saeb’s colleagues hound and pound him so badly that they literally drove him out of the room”.

    Erekat told American and Israeli officials during the most recent negotiations that he felt his daughters were ashamed of him and his wife saw him as weak because of the Palestinians’ failure to make tangible progress towards freedom and independence.

    The Palestine papers show that his sense of humour becomes more self-deprecating when he is under pressure: “If someone sneezes in Tel Aviv, I get the flu in Jericho.”

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    Nazi Tzipi Livni



    Documents reveal dry sense of humour and combative style of foreign minister and lead Israeli negotiator in 2008

  • Ian Black, Middle East editor
  • 23 January 2011

    Tzipi Livni, lead Israeli negotiator in 2008
    Tzipi Livni, lead Israeli negotiator in 2008, argues that a peace settlement is still possible with the Palestinians. Photograph: Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images

    It looked for a while as if Tzipi Livni might be the only woman after the redoubtable Golda Meir to become Israel‘s prime minister, but the rightwards drift of Israeli politics and the failing peace process seem to have put the highest office beyond her reach.

    Livni, whose Polish-born father was a commander in the pre-1948 Irgun group, moved from the Likud to join the centrist Kadima party set by up Ariel Sharon, becoming party leader after Ehud Olmert was forced to resign.

    Livni, now 52, worked in Paris for the Mossad secret service in the 1980s, a fact which figures prominently but with little supporting detail in her official biography. She told her curious interlocutors in one negotiating session that it was “a long time ago” and she had not been involved in Palestinian affairs.

    A commercial lawyer by training, she can seem an uncharismatic figure, though the Palestine papers reveal her to have both a dry sense of humour and, by her own admission, a combative style. “Houston, we have a problem,” she quipped when the Palestinians pressed her to enter detailed discussions on Jerusalem in 2008.

    In another session, devoted to Israel’s insistence that a Palestinian state would have to be demilitarised, Livni took a lyrical turn: everything in life, she said, was a matter of timing. “This also applies to marriage, peace, war. If I had known my husband a year earlier or a year later things could have been different.” Fellow Israeli negotiator Amos Gilad shot back: “Perhaps he would have been demilitarised.”

    On the spectrum of views in mainstream Israeli politics, she is a centrist hawk who robustly defended the last war in Gaza as a legitimate response to Hamas rocket fire. In December 2009 a London court issued a warrant – later withdrawn – for her arrest on suspicion of war crimes, prompting a diplomatic row and calls for a change in British legislation.

    Livni, now leader of the opposition, argues that a peace settlement is still possible with the Palestinians but she does not have great expectations of what it can achieve.

    “I don’t believe that, the moment an agreement is signed, we’ll live in a fairytale world of prosperity and happiness,” she said in a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post. “This is a harsh neighbourhood. This is a highly complex conflict.”

    Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Nazi Tzipi Livni

    Tal Becker



    The Israeli negotiator in 2008 held detailed talks with his Palestinian counterpart Saeb Erekat on the refugee issue.

  • Ian Black
  •  24 January 2011 

    Tal Becker, Israeli negotiator in 2008
    Tal Becker was a key Israeli member of the Annapolis negotiations in 2008. Photograph: World Jewish Congress

    Tal Becker, legal adviser to the then Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, was a key member of his country’s negotiating team in the Annapolis process.

    The offspring of a Moroccan father and an Australian mother, he still speaks with the accent he acquired growing up in Melbourne. Becker studied at a yeshiva (talmudical college) in the West Bank and immigrated to Israel in 1994.

    During his military service he was a legal adviser to the army in Gaza and was involved in negotiations over operating a “safe passage” between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s.

    Becker began working in the foreign ministry in 1998 and prepared legal advice on borders and refugees for the Israeli team at the Camp David summit in 2000. In 2001 he went to study in New York while working as legal adviser to the Israeli delegation to the United Nations.

    Along with his Palestinian opposite number, Saeb Erekat, Becker did the bulk of detailed negotiating on the refugee issue in 2008. In one meeting he protested that Israel could not acknowledge responsibility for the refugee problem. “In our point of view this is basically asking us to take on their (Palestinian) narrative.”

    The Palestinian negotiators got to know him well. Erekat understood that something unusual was going on if the Israeli official phoned him several times late at night – as Becker was normally in bed by 10pm.

    Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on Tal Becker

    George Mitchell



    US special envoy from 2009 combines resolve to bring Israelis and Palestinians together, with realistic take on likelihood of deal


  • Ian Black
  • 24 January 2011

    US special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, with President Barack Obama
    The appointment of George Mitchell (right) as US special envoy to the Middle East was seen as strong evidence of Barack Obama’s (left) commitment to getting the negotiations moving. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

    George Mitchell came to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process with previous experience of the Middle East, as well as his much-praised success in brokering the 1998 Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland.

    His appointment by Barack Obama in January 2009 was seen as powerful evidence of the president’s commitment to getting talks moving. Mitchell insisted from the start he was interested in “results, not process”, but quickly found that the parties needed constant reassurance.

    “I understand the frustration and the burden of history,” he told Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in 2009, “but please don’t let this opportunity slip by.”

    Shuttling across the region to Syria, Jordan, the Gulf and Egypt, the 76-year-old former Democratic senator combined resolve to bring the sides together with hard-headed realism about how difficult it would be to get them to agree a deal. “I know something about negotiations,” he said. “When you say: ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’, these are not empty words.”

    The leaked documents show that Mitchell, courteous and adept at sidestepping provocation, used advice to mask his irritation. “You have to deal with the world as it is, not as you would like it,” he urged when Palestinian officials insisted they would not negotiate without an Israeli settlement freeze that included East Jerusalem. There was no way to persuade Binyamin Netanyahu to freeze those settlements, Mitchell admitted, “even if we engage with the Israelis til doomsday”. He chided the Palestinians for misreading the political map in Israel.

    Flattered by Erekat – who had taken the trouble of reading Mitchell’s book on Northern Ireland – the US envoy slightly misquoted Winston Churchill’s remark about Clement Attlee and applied it to himself: “A humble man, with much to be humble about”.

    Mitchell scores high marks for empathy: “I can’t put myself in your shoes entirely, but as someone who served a long time in public office I can understand,” he told Erekat. But he failed to translate his strongest message into a diplomatic success. “For 60 years, the choices open to the Palestinian people have become less and less attractive,” he said. “The circumstance under which they live, worse and worse. There is not a shred of evidence that delay is going to provide better choices or improve daily life – and this is true with or without Barack Obama. But with Obama, it is absolutely clear that this is the last time. And believe me it is the best time.”

    • This article was amended on 26 January 2011. The original referred to George Mitchell brokering the 1999 Good Friday agreement in Northern Ireland. This has been corrected.

    Posted in Palestine AffairsComments Off on George Mitchell

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