What the Palestine Papers Mean for Peace in the Middle East

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A new release of leaked documents is spurring a global debate about the role of the U.S., Israel and Palestine in the Middle East peace talks. According to confidential documents obtained by the Al Jazeera news network, Palestinian negotiators "secretly agreed to cede" all but one neighborhood of East Jerusalem to Israel in exchange for statehood. Al Jazeera claims to have 1,600 Palestinian documents slated for release in what the Haaretz newspaper calls "the biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the conflict."

  • Some Major Concessions, notes Barak Ravid at Haaretz: "Al-Jazeera TV reported that the Palestinian Authority offered Israel all settlements in Jerusalem except Har Homa on June 15, 2008... Further details reveal a Palestinian agreement to the return of only 100,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel, and that [Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb] Erekat agreed to the Israeli demand of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state."
  • No One Looks Good Here, writes The Guardian's editorial board:  "It is hard to tell who appears worst: the Palestinian leaders, who are weak, craven and eager to shower their counterparts with compliments; the Israelis, who are polite in word but contemptuous in deed; or the Americans, whose neutrality consists of bullying the weak and holding the hand of the strong. Together they conspire to build a puppet state in Palestine, at best authoritarian, at worst a surrogate for an occupying force."
  • Now We Know: Only the Palestinians Were Striving for Peace  "Surely international opinion will see concrete proof of how far the Palestinians have been willing to go, ready to move up to and beyond their 'red lines', conceding ground that would once have been unthinkable – none more so than on Jerusalem," writes Jonathan Freedland at The Guardian. "In the blame game that has long attended Middle East diplomacy, this could see a shift in the Palestinians' favour."
  • Undermines the Credibility of Abbas, writes Tony Karon at Time:
The furor over the documents will, of course, reinforce the claim by more hawkish Israelis that no matter how accommodating Abbas is willing to be, he lacks the political authority to sell his own people the deal he's offering Israel. Some may also argue that the disclosures show that Abbas' insistence on a settlement freeze as a precondition to resuming talks was a red herring, tossed out by a leadership willing to concede Israel's rights to those settlements but not to face the moment of truth with their own people on the terms of a peace agreement.
  • It's Official: the Netanyahu-Obama Rift Is Complete, announces Ben Smith at Politico:  "The notion that the two men could prove a productive diplomatic odd couple has been tossed aside because, in the American view, the worst expectations about Netanyahu’s intransigence have been confirmed. The new view: Netanyahu chose the constraints of a coalition that he steered further right this month, and the U.S. won’t be offering him help, or sympathy, with his domestic politics going forward."
  • Al Jazeera Hosts an Opinion Panel  Between former Israeli Foreign Minister Schlomo Ben Ami, the co-founder of Electronic Intifada Ali Abunimah and the Middle East Monitor Director Daud Abdullah:

  • This Just Made a Peace Deal Even More Unlikely, adds Karon:
The Palestine Papers may well have made the position of Abbas politically untenable. Not only do they militate against him seeking a democratic mandate for another term of office; the fallout they may generate could underscore the unlikelihood of any Palestinian leader being able to accept the terms Israel is currently willing to offer for a two-state deal. The possibility that a two-state solution can be agreed to by the parties themselves has just become a little more remote. And that leaves the matter of ending the occupation and realizing Palestinian rights back in the lap of the international community.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.