Sunday, January 23, 2011

Palestinianpapers reveal: despite concessions, Olmert/Livni negotiations with PA led to no peace

(Via Guardian). The documents reveal Palestinian Authority leaders often tipping over into making ingratiating appeals to their Israeli counterparts, as well as US leaders. "I would vote for you," the then senior Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qureia (also known as Abu Ala), told Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, during talks at the King David hotel in Jerusalem in June 2008, as she was preparing for elections in her Kadima party. Given the choice, Livni shot back, "you don't have much of a dilemma."

Qureia's comment echoed earlier private remarks by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), to Ariel Sharon in a June 2005 meeting at the then Israeli prime minister's residence which would have caused outrage if they had been made known at the time.

Having listened to Sharon berate him for failing to crack down on the "terrorist infrastructure" of Hamas and Islamic jihad, Abbas was recorded as noting "with pleasure the fact that Sharon considered him a friend, and the fact that he too considered Sharon a friend, every bullet that is aimed in the direction of Israel is a bullet aimed at the Palestinians as well".

In an emotional – and apparently humiliating – outburst to Barack Obama's Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, in Washington in October 2009, the senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat complained that the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership wasn't even being offered a "figleaf".

He said: "Nineteen years of promises and you haven't made up your minds what you want to do with us ... We delivered on our road map obligations. Even Yuval Diskin [director of Israel's internal security service, Shabak] raises his hat on security. But no, they can't even give a six-month freeze to give me a figleaf."

All the US government was interested in, Erekat went on, was "PR, quick news, and we're cost free", ending up with the appeal: "What good am I if I'm the joke of my wife, if I'm so weak?"

A few months later, in January 2010, Erekat returned to a similar theme with the US state department official David Hale, saying he was offering Israel "the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history" (using the Hebrew name for Jerusalem), a "symbolic number of refugees' return, demilitarized state ... What more can I give?"

But as became clear even under the earlier, less hardline Israeli government of Ehud Olmert, the scale of concessions offered by Erekat and other Palestinian Authority negotiators – far beyond what the majority of the Palestinian public would be likely to accept – was insufficient for Israeli leaders.

The documents show the Israelis conducting themselves in a businesslike manner. In an attempt to show her good faith, Livni is recorded confirming what Palestinians have always accused Israeli governments of doing: creating facts on the ground to prevent the possibility of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

At a west Jerusalem meeting in November 2007, she told Qurei that she believed Palestinians saw settlement building as meaning "Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible"; that "the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we'lll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state". She conceded that had been "the policy of the government for a really long time".

At the end of 2007, though, "it is still the policy of some of the parties but not the government".

Increasingly, PA leaders resorted to warning US officials that if they failed to deliver an agreement with Israel, the door would be opened to Hamas and Iran. In October 2009, Erekat told Mitchell: "In no time you will have Aziz Dweik as your partner," referring to the Hamas speaker of the Palestinian parliament, who constitutionally assumes the role of Palestinian president when the job is vacant.

PA leaders repeatedly threatened to abandon attempts to negotiate a two-state solution in favour of a one-state option. At the same meeting, Erekat declared that if the settlement of the West Bank continued, "we will announce the one state and the struggle for equality in the state of Israel".

But the documents show US officials unmoved by such claims. Why were the Palestinians "always in a chapter of a Greek tragedy", secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, asked at a meeting with Erekat in Washington in the autumn of 2009.