The first take of the "Palestine Papers run Sunday night, Jan. 23, appearing on the Qatar-owned Arabic Al-Jazeera TV network is a transparent attempt to discredit Palestinian Authority leaders, especially Mahmoud Abbas and Saab Erekat, as ready to sell their people out by exaggerated concessions to Israel - especially on Jerusalem and Temple Mount. Al Jazeera cites 1,600 internal documents from a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Both Palestinian leaders dismiss the "documents" as half-truths and distortions.
DEBKAfile reveals that they were sold to the TV network by a disgruntled Palestinian staffer fired from the PA's NFU-Negotiating Support Team. They were used to depict Abbas and Ereket as willing to betray Palestinian national interests, Israel as offering nothing in return for Palestinian concessions and America as unfairly advocating Israel's case throughout.
DEBKAfile: The "expose" was clearly motivated by the urge to settle internal scores within the Arab camp and among rival Palestinian factions.
The presentation of a decade of negotiations is flawed on four counts:
1. The Palestinian negotiators are quoted as willing to "give" Israel Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Ramot, Talpiot and French Hill which were never theirs to give. Those neighborhoods were unpopulated in 1967 and Jerusalem neighborhoods have been standing there for four decades with tens of thousands of inhabitants. The Palestinians know they will never gain them.
Erekat is quoted as saying to US peace envoy George Mitchell on Jan. 15, 2010: "What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history." He denies ever making that statement.
However, two years earlier, on June 30, 2008, Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala), then Palestinian prime minister, is quoted as saying said that Jerusalem is part of the territory occupied in 1967. Livni answered: Houston, we have a problem.
2. Erekat was described as willing to shelve the Haram/Temple Mount issue on the understanding that control would pass to the oversight of an international committee.
3. The disposition of Israeli West Bank towns Maaleh Adummim, Efrat, Givat Zeev and Ariel is not clear. In one place Abu Ala said all those places are located deep in the West Bank and their inclusion in Israel would be ruinous for the contiguity for the future Palestinian state. But he admitted that the dismantling of these "settlements" is also not an option. Palestinian negotiations raised in several meetings a third option: Those settlements would be allowed to remain as part of the future Palestinian state under Palestinian sovereignty, say "the documents." DEBKA:. But no final Palestinian position has been articulated.
4. More than one Israeli government offered Palestinian negotiators a land swap of Israeli Arab-populated areas for Jewish towns on the West Bank. The "transfer" plan is therefore wrongly attributed to extreme right wing circles in internal Israeli political dispute.
Al Jazeera promises to release more Palestinian Papers in the coming days. The first batch, at any rate, sheds no fresh light on this agonizingly drawn-out process; neither does it make any real contribution to furthering the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians which have anyway been stalled for five months.