Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

The Guardian: Palestinian leaders weak – and increasingly desperate

23 January 2011

Al-Jazeera TV , the Guardian: PA agreed to concede almost all of East Jerusalem to Israel, accept Israeli demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and much more.

At a meeting in November 2007, [Livni] told Qureia 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’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it had been “the policy of the government for a really long time”.

IOA Editor: US-backed Israeli rejectionism, delivered by Tzipi Livni — generally regarded as Israel’s “more flexible” opposition leader. [Ha!] Nothing that we didn’t already know, other than the details on the specific Palestinian concessions. Even more interesting is Qureia’s March 2008 comment to Condoleezza Rice “You bring back life to the region when you come.” After Israel’s mass killing campaign in Lebanon and the US slaughter Iraq, it would have been far more accurate to state “you bring death to the region.”

Much more on this:

  • The Guardian’s the Palestine papers: the documents.
  • Al Jazeera: “The Biggest Yerusalayim”

By Seumas Milne, The Guardian – 23 Jan 2011

Leaked documents show PA and PLO leaders pleading with dismissive US officials in face of Israel’s unyielding negotiators

The overwhelming impression that emerges from the confidential records of a decade of Middle East peace talks is of the weakness and desperation of Palestinian leaders, the unyielding correctness of Israeli negotiators and the often contemptuous attitude towards the Palestinian side shown by US politicians and officials.

It is a picture that graphically illustrates the gradual breakdown of a process now widely believed to have reached a dead end. 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”, adding that “every bullet that is aimed in the direction of Israel is a bullet aimed at the Palestinians as well”. In March 2008, the documents show that Qureia greeted the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, with the words: “You bring back life to the region when you come.”

But as the 2007-08 Annapolis negotiations led nowhere and the government of Binyamin Netanyahu successfully resisted US pressure to halt settlement building in the occupied territories during 2009-10, Palestinian negotiators are shown adopting an increasingly injured and despairing tone with US officials, as they seek to demonstrate the scale of concessions they have made to no avail.

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, demilitarised 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.

During the most intensive recent negotiations, before and after George Bush’s Annapolis conference, 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 Qureia 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’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it 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”.

But when Palestinian leaders balked at the prospect of an entirely demilitarised state, Livni made clear where the negotiating power lay. In May 2008, Erekat asked Livni: “Short of your jet fighters in my sky and your army on my territory, can I choose where I secure external defence?”

“No,” Livni replied. “In order to create your state you have to agree in advance with Israel – you choose not to have the right of choice afterwards.”

By the following year, Erekat appeared to have accepted that choice. “The Palestinians know they will have a country with limitations,” he told Mitchell. “They won’t have an army, air force or navy.” A string of other major concessions had been made, but the issues were no further forward. “They need decisions,” Erekat pleaded.

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.

Her predecessor, Rice, had been even more dismissive. In July 2008 during talks with Palestinian leaders over compensation for refugees who fled or were forced from their homes when Israel was established in 1948, she said: “Bad things happen to people all around the world all the time.”

If the Palestinians kept insisting that Israel could not keep the large settlements of Ma’ale Adumim (near Jerusalem) and Ariel (in the heart of the West Bank), Rice told them: “You won’t have a state”. No Israeli leader could accept a deal “without including them in an Israeli state”.

As to the most neuralgic issue – Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem – she declared: “If we wait until you decide sovereignty … your children’s children will not have an agreement.”

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