‘Palestine Papers’ aimed at PA

I am not terribly excited about the so-called “Palestine papers.” There’s less there than meets the eye. Barry Rubin and Elder of Ziyon both have good posts on the subject.

But here are a few thoughts on the matter.

The ‘papers’ appear to be notes taken by Palestinian participants in various meetings with Israeli and US negotiators. Although they are being spun by Aljazeera and the UK Guardian — an organ even more hostile to Israel — as showing that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was prepared to make great concessions to Israel while Israel was rigid and intransigent, the documents so far published on Aljazeera’s site do not appear to show this.

In fact, the commentary by the Guardian and Aljazeera actually seems to attribute well-known Israeli positions to the PA!

What is especially interesting to me is the way the PA is furiously denying any hint that they might be prepared to compromise on anything — borders, Jerusalem, Refugees, etc. They see themselves as under attack by these allegations:

Al-Jazeera has declared war on the Palestinians … This station serves the interests of the enemies of the Palestinians — unnamed ‘Senior PA official’

This is a theater … This is part of a campaign targeting President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA at a time when we are going to the UN Security Council regarding the settlements. — Saeb Erekat, PA negotiator

For once I agree. The public the PA is trying to impress, both Palestinian Arabs and the rest of the Arab world, despise compromise and worship ‘resistance’. Even if the PA wanted to agree that perhaps not every one of the 4-5 million Arabs that claims ‘refugee’ status has an absolute right to ‘return’ to Israel, to say this would be to mark them as clearly inferior to Hamas by the only measure that counts: militancy.

This is why the PA continues to glorify terrorists and allow vicious anti-Israel  and antisemitic incitement in its media despite promises to stop.

So while the usual suspects like NPR will bleat about how this ‘proves’ that everything is Israel’s fault, the main effect of these documents and their spin will be to hit the PA where it hurts the most, in its credibility in the Arab world as champion of the Palestinian Cause.

The actual documents that I’ve seen have not contained anything new or surprising. It may be that the Guardian and Aljazeera have others which include strategic fabrications, such as placing Israel’s positions in the mouths of Palestinian negotiators. Or it may that the analysts are simply mixed up about who said what. If the actual documents are released, it will ultimately become clear, since the Israelis have notes too.

Of course by that time, as always, the damage will have been done, both major damage to the PA and minor damage to Israel. It’s ironic to see the Palestinians wounded by the same kind of falsehood bomb that they so often throw themselves.

There’s speculation about who did it. Certainly the Iran/Syria/Hizballah/Hamas axis has it in for the PA, and wouldn’t mind screwing Israel in the bargain. Or it could be another Fatah faction: some PA officials are blaming Abbas rival Mahmoud Dahlan.

What is most important here, at least so far, is not what is in the documents, but rather how they are being used — especially in the Arab world.

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3 Responses to “‘Palestine Papers’ aimed at PA”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Do you then take Abbas’ alleged statement that Israel could not be expected to absorb one million Palestinian Arabs as some kind of trick?
    And is the supposed statement of another Palestinian negotiator that agrees with the idea of heavily populated Jewish neighborhoods in the Eastern part of the city going to Israel, to also be a trick?
    What I am really asking is the following: Don’t we see here a sign of the Palestinian Arabs readiness to actually make an agreement with Israel? And wouldn’t it be expected that a large share maybe the majority of the Arab population would be angry at such concessions? Or do you feel it all a bluff and the Arabs simply not interested in an agreement?

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    I think Barry Rubin’s suggestion is reasonable — that in documents that Aljazeera and the Guardian have made a big deal about but not released, they have swapped Israeli and PA positions.

    I believe that if the Palestinians wanted an agreement they could have had one. I don’t know if the majority of Palestinian Arabs would have approved of it, although polls show that their attitudes tend towards the hard line, but I do know that armed factions would never sit still for it. And one young man with an AK47’s opinion is worth that of 10 ‘moderates’.

  3. Robman says:

    Much of this discussion about alleged Palestinian “flexibility” misses the point.

    Nowhere have I seen, as yet, any indication that these “leaks” include any willingness by the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Without formal recognition, any other “concession” is meaningless.

    This point cannot be made too strongly.

    Yitzhak Rabin insisted on recognition along these lines prior to the signing of the historic Oslo accords, and Arafat agreed to amend the PNC accordingly. He later reneged. But without this promise from Arafat, even Oslo would not have happened.

    The Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel makes about as much sense as Russia refusing to recognize Poland as a Polish state, or Turkey refusing to recognize Greece as a Greek state.

    The Palestinians offer two standard arguements against recognition, both of which are easily refuted.

    1. “Recognition will compromise the status of Arabs living within Israel”.

    This is a nonsense argument. Since Israel already considers herself a Jewish state, the status of Arabs living there would not change at all.

    2. “Recognition will interfere with the justification for our demand for ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees to anywhere in Israel”.

    The Palestinians aren’t going to get ROR. That’s probably why Israel rejected the “token” ROR put forth by them. There is no legal or historical precedent that would justify this. Even Zbigniew Brzezinski – no friend of Israel – is on record as declaring ROR to be an unreasonable demand on the part of the Palestinians. So, their second objection above is a moot point.

    Today, Abbas is dispensing with any pretense towards conceding on the recognition issue. He expects any agreement to avoid this issue. He has painted himself into a corner big time on this one, You’d think something approaching reasonable Western governments – not only the U.S. – would call him on this, but they don’t, which proves to me their Saudi-corrupted perfidy. Even Bush wasn’t much better than Obama on this one.

    If an agreement were to be signed without the PA formally recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, then when they renege – not if, when – they can logically claim in the court of world opinion that they could not be held to the terms of an agreement made with an “illegitimate entity”, rather like, at the individual level, not being bound to a contract signed with a minor.

    Therefore, even if this isn’t a fabrication by Al Jazeera, these revelations about Palestinian “concession” – unless recognition were included in these, and so far, it looks like this was not – mean NOTHING.