Dr. Elias Akleh
It seems that the Palestine Papers, leaked by WikiLeaks, exposing the behind-closed-doors shady Palestinian/Israeli negotiations and security cooperation, and broadcasted by Al-Jazeera TV had surprised many in the Western world. The Palestinians, on the other hand, were not surprised at all for they had lived through such fruitless negotiations during the last twenty years.
The Palestinians had not gained any positive results through these negotiations. On the contrary they have been witnessing their land being gradually snatched from under them few meters at a time, more of their rights being continuously violated, and more and more of them being routinely murdered by Israeli army and extremist colonizers (settlers).
Although not talked about openly the Palestinians had what could be described as unconscious knowledge of the dubious nature of the negotiations the Palestinian negotiating team is leading. WikiLeaks had just uncovered what have been well-known facts and had forced people to face and to talk about them.
What was really surprising is how far the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its negotiators have been willing to offer the Israelis, who have rejected all the Palestinian generous and free concessions, and the total pro-Israeli bias of the self-claimed American honest peace broker, who exerted tremendous pressure on the PA to surrender even more concessions.
The Palestine Papers have exposed PA and its negotiating team as traitors, who betrayed a national trust given to them by their own people. The Palestinian negotiating team had given Israel so many concessions while getting nothing in return. Besides accepting Israel’s existence on occupied Palestinian land in 1948 they had also agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of large tracts of 1967 occupied territories over which the Israelis had built more colonies (settlements) especially around Jerusalem in contravention to international laws that consider all settlements in occupied land as illegal. It also seems that they had agreed to some sort of shared sovereignty over Haram Al-Sharif; one of the most Islamic holy sites that is the property of the Islamic Waqf (trust) and belongs to all Muslims not just to the Palestinians.
It seems that the PA had also given up the legitimate rights of seven million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, as guaranteed by all international laws and by UN resolution 194. They had considered it impractical while, at the same time, accepting the fraudulent Jewish claim of right of return from different countries all over the globe to Palestine. They, instead, have negotiated the return of a very small number of Palestinians only to the proposed yet-undefined future Palestinian state in the form of humanitarian reunion of family members.
The PA had also negotiated some sort of security cooperation with Israel that had made the Palestinian forces an Israeli proxy security forces protecting Israeli extremist colonizers and oppressing all forms of Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation. This involved, among others, the imprisoning and torturing of Palestinian freedom fighters and political figures, providing security information to Israeli soldiers concerning the locations and movement of Palestinian activists, and allowing the Israeli soldiers to operate freely within the Palestinian towns to arrest and to assassinate activists and Hamas members.
Worst of all the WikiLeaks papers had exposed the roles the PA had played in inciting against the democratically elected Hamas government, its role in the failed coup in Gaza, its cooperation with Israel in the illegal economic siege against Gaza, it’s pre-knowledge of the 2008-2009 Cast Lead Operation against Gaza and its intelligence sharing with the Israeli army, and its deployment of security troops to the borders of Gaza/Egypt in preparation of taking over Gaza as soon as the Israeli army finishes off Hamas.
Robert Fisk stated in his article “The Palestine Papers are as damning as the Balfour Declaration”. This is actually far worse than Balfour Declaration. We would expect Zionist British Balfour to betray Palestinians, but we would not have expected the PA, who claims to struggle for Palestinians’ rights and to establish Palestinian state, to betray their own Palestinian brothers.
The response of the PA and its negotiating team to the Palestine Papers was so pathetic. I have watched their angry emotional nonsensical and at times hostile defense while being interviewed on Al-Jazeera TV, especially that of the Chief Palestinian Negotiator, Saeb Erekat. During his interview Mr. Erekat was extremely emotional, agitated, furious, very hostile, trying to talk down his interviewer with loud screaming voice, avoiding most of the questions posed to him, accusing his interviewer and Al-Jazeera of incitement against his person specifically and against Palestinians in general, threatening to sue Al-Jazeera, and talking big about patriotism and his own struggle to put Palestine back on the map. Never in my life have I felt pity for and disappointment with such a man assigned to be a chief negotiator with such a pathetic childish dialogue skills.
The 20 years history of this Palestinian negotiating team has failed to show any success. They failed to gain even one inch of occupied land back despite all the major concessions they offered Israel. With such failure it is so shameful that such a team was never changed even once while the Israeli negotiating team has been changed so many times.
It is understandable that negotiations between a weak occupied nation and its stronger occupying power yields only surrender agreements. It is also known, in the case of Palestinians, that the other rich Arab governments are no longer providing enough financial support to the PA to survive, and had left them under the conditional financial mercy of the Quartet and especially the US. The PA is forced to obey the dictate of the American administration for fear of losing its financial and logistical support. It appears that PA and its negotiating team had sold their souls and are willing to betray their people in order to stay in their political positions that generate handsome income into their own pockets. It is extremely shameful that they are willing to meet with their enemy to strike shady cooperative deals rather than meeting with their Palestinian brothers in the democratically elected Hamas government for reconciliation. Honorable men would have resigned their positions, when under pressure, rather than giving in to unjust political pressure causing harm to their people.
What was also surprising, besides the PA’s generous concession, is the degree to which the Israelis were unwilling to accept these concessions that might have led to some sort of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israelis seem to accept nothing less than complete capitulation by the Palestinians to everything they demand up front. This cast a doubt about Israel’s seriousness in achieving any type of peace agreement. If peace is what the Israelis aspire for, as they keep claiming, they would have accepted the Arab Peace Initiative that guarantees them the peace and the security they claim to fervently seek.
Israel has adopted the Zionist dream of Jewish-only great Israel and nothing less would satisfy them. Israel’s unwilling to accept all the generous Palestinian concessions reveal their false claim that they do not have any Palestinian/Arab partner in peace. The fact is that Israeli government, itself, is not willing to be a peace partner with the Arabs.
What is very striking in the Papers is the role the American administration had played in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Successive American administrations had continuously exhibited extreme bias towards Israelis regardless of the crimes they commit. Such bias can be seen in the US vetoing every UN resolution against Israel, supporting and arming Israel in its 2006 war against Lebanon and its 2008/9 war against Gaza, sidelining Goldstone’s Report incriminating Israel in war crimes, and defending Israeli piracy against the Gaza Humanitarian Flotilla. In fact the American administrations had been Israel’s faithful lawyer and financer
As for the Palestinian side the American administrations had always applied political pressure to force them into surrendering more concessions. The administration has gone as far as violating its sacred calling and aspiration for supporting freedom and democracy when it opposed the Palestinian democratic choice of a Hamas government, and went as far as arranging for a coup against that government and supporting the illegal blockade of Gaza.
As for the plight of the Palestinian refugees the Palestine Papers revealed that the previous Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, had the audacity to offer the mass transfer of these refugees, as if they were cattle, to some Latin American countries such as Chile and Argentine, assuming the authority to force the refugees onto the citizens of these countries regardless of any ethnic conflict that would arise.
The US had obstructed PA to resort to UN Security Council to extract recognition of a Palestinian state and pressured the PA back into the fruitless negotiations under the claim that such negotiation is the only means of solving the conflict. The US had offered only lip service against the Israeli violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention of building settlements on usurped Palestinian land in the occupied territories but had done nothing to stop it. The least the US could do to enforce the international law in this regard is to withhold, or at least threaten to withhold, all financial aid to Israel that is being used to build such settlements and to subsidize housing for Israeli extremists.
The American administration is not an honest peace broker as they keep claiming; rather it is a very active partner in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Dr. Elias Akleh is an Arab writer from a Palestinian descent born in the town of Beit Jala. His family was first evicted from Haifa after the “Nakba” of 1948, then from Beit Jala after the “Nakseh” of 1967. He lives now in the US, and publishes his articles on the web in both English and Arabic.