If ever there was a need to provide irrefutable evidence of the extent to which all parties involved in the Arab Israeli conflict are living in Alice in Wonderland, this was demonstrated by the Al-Jazeera “disclosures” of the negotiations that allegedly took place between the PA leaders and the then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
It resulted in a massive global media campaign by anti-Israeli groups to distort and spin these reports in order to portray Israel as being intransigent in the face of major concessions offered by the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Most of the parties involved have egg on their faces.
That the major settlement blocs – Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion – would remain under Israel sovereignty had already been mooted in the Clinton parameters and conveyed to Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit in July 2000. It was reaffirmed by President Bush in his April 2004 letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon relating to the need to take account of demographic changes when finalizing the borders. The Israeli consensus, as ratified by all Israeli governments, including the Olmert government reflected this.
So Tzipi Livni was justifiably surprised when in the course of the private negotiations, the Palestinians demanded that Maale Adumim, Ariel and Efrat remain under Palestinian sovereignty. Even US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had told the Palestinians that if they persisted in demanding the dismantling of Maale Adumim and Ariel they would never achieve statehood. That Livni felt obliged to consult her advisers instead of outrightly rejecting the suggestion that Maale Adumim be retained with its 30,000 residents under Palestinian sovereignty will disturb many Israelis.
Livni is also quoted as having made other remarks that will not go down well with her Israeli constituents. She is alleged to even have reviewed pretexts for enabling terrorists to be released with the Palestinians. On another occasion she needlessly opined that “we’re giving up the Golan”.
The reality is that many of the concessions offered to the Palestinians by Olmert and Livni would probably not have been endorsed by the Israeli public. These included failing to insist on maintaining defensible borders and offering to share jurisdiction of the Temple Mount with other governments, including Saudi Arabia. Yet even these offers which were included in a package handing Palestinians 93.7% of territory over the green line, were rebuffed by the Palestinians.
The Palestinians also refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and when Livni asked Saeb Erekat how he would provide security for Israelis living in a Palestinian state, he responded “Can you imagine that I have changed my DNA and accepted a situation in which Jews become citizens having the rights that I and my wife have?”
Israelis were not the slightest surprised by these “disclosures” which were basically in synch with previous published unconfirmed Israeli media reports of what had taken place. In fact, most of the purported “concessions” from the Palestinians represented long standing Israeli positions that had already been taken as givens by the US and other Western powers.
The one major breakthrough was the verbal admission by Mahmoud Abbas that for the Jewish state to accept “five million or even one million refugees would mean the end of Israel”. But once this was disclosed to the Arab public, it led to charges of high treason being leveled against the PA leadership who subsequently adamantly denied that they would ever contemplate compromising the “sacred” right of all Palestinians to return to Israel.
Indeed the release of the Al-Jazeera documents led to hysterical rage amongst Palestinians who accused their leaders of betrayal. The documents allege that the PA had been informed in advance concerning Operation Cast Lead in Gaza and that they had colluded with Israeli security forces, as Saeb Erekat is quoted, “to kill our own people”. The disclosure of these allegations enraged the Palestinians who accused their leaders of betraying them. In response, Saeb Erekat claimed that the Al-Jazeera leaks were false, had been engineered by Palestinians associated with the CIA and British intelligence, and endangered his life.
Of course the absurdity of these “concessions” is that they directly contradict every public statement expressed by the PA in relation to these issues.
It is totally legitimate for diplomats to deal with controversial issues in camera. However to pay lip service to negotiating peace in good faith whilst simultaneously assuming a contrary hostile public profile must invariably end disastrously. Instead of attempting to dampen the flames of incitement and hatred, the Palestinian leaders have been encouraging all levels of their society to sanctify and glorify suicide bombers and promote hatred in the kindergartens, mosques and media.
Such behavior confirms that the PA representatives realized that they could never convey to their constituents an arrangement that sanctioned the maintenance of Jewish sovereignty. It demonstrates that when the Palestinian leaders indulge in private negotiations, they speak with a forked tongue and have no intention of ever publicly presenting compromises to their people. They were simply negotiating to obtain more concessions from Israel as part of their strategy to dismantle the Jewish State in stages.
However, this has now resulted in the PA is now being hoisted by its own petard. The incitement against Israel has succeeded to such an extent that their own people now feel betrayed and accuse them of behaving like quislings. Their bitter rage may undermine the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and ultimately lead to the demise of the duplicitous “moderate” Palestinian leadership. The net gainers may be the more “honest” genocidal Jihadists – Hamas.
The other fallout in this imbroglio is the pro-Palestinian left which considered itself “betrayed” by the PA for contemplating any concessions. It was mind-boggling to observe the outraged “pro-peace” media like the Guardian and the BBC accusing the Palestinians of betraying their people, demanding that they reject any meaningful compromise and calling on them to adhere to their maximalist demands.
Needless to say, the principal loser is President Obama. His irresponsible and fatuous campaigns against construction in Jerusalem and the settlements were exposed as counter-productive acts of folly. The Al-Jazeera disclosures demonstrate conclusively that the Palestinians were unconcerned about this issue and had accepted the reality that the Jerusalem Jewish suburbs of Ramot, Pisgat Zeev and Gilo remain integral parts of Israel.
They only subsequently jumped on the bandwagon after Obama’s demand that Israel institutes a settlement freeze, exploiting his assessment of Israeli settlements as representing “obstacles to peace”, as a pretext to halt all negotiations with the Israelis.
By leaving it to the US Administration to pressure Israel on their behalf and avoiding dialogue, the PA were also able to conceal their intransigency.
The implication is that there are no credible Palestinian peace partners and when they indulge in private negotiations, they realize that they are unable to present any meaningful concession to their people who they themselves have brainwashed with hatred and extremism. At least in future they may now hesitate before embarking on duplicitous private peace gambits, which are never intended to be submitted to their people but merely designed to mollify Western public opinion.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post