Palestine Papers: 5 Disclosures That Are Making Waves

By Murphy, Dan | The Christian Science Monitor, January 24, 2011 | Go to article overview

Palestine Papers: 5 Disclosures That Are Making Waves


Murphy, Dan, The Christian Science Monitor


Al Jazeera's trove of documents on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which the news organization has dubbed the "Palestine Papers," landed with a resounding thud on desks in Jerusalem and Ramallah yesterday.Al Jazeera has so far only released some of the documents, which appear to come from the Palestinian side. Though Palestinian officials allege that some of the documents are faked, here are a few of the claims they contain that are already making waves in regional capitals.

Al Jazeera's trove of documents on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, which the news organization has dubbed the "Palestine Papers," landed with a resounding thud on desks in Jerusalem and Ramallah yesterday.

Al Jazeera has so far only released some of the documents, which appear to come from the Palestinian side. Though Palestinian officials allege that some of the documents are faked, here are a few of the claims they contain that are already making waves in regional capitals.

#5 Palestinian land concessions

Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem - considered occupied territory under international law - has been a major obstacle to renewed peace talks, with leaders like Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas arguing that peace talks are pointless while Israel is expanding its presence on land they claim for a Palestinian state. But according to the Al Jazeera documents, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in 2008 proposed allowing Israel to keep almost all of its East Jerusalem settlements in a final deal. The only exception was the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa. Mr. Erekat described the concessions as "historic" but got a negative response from Tzipi Livni, then Israel's foreign minister. "We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands... but I really appreciate it," Ms. Livni reportedly said.

#4 The Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount

Al Jazeera says it has obtained minutes of a meeting between Erekat and US Mideast Envoy George Mitchell. In the minutes, Erekat appears to propose allowing some sort of international control of the holy site that Jews call the Temple Mount (because they believe it was the site of the destroyed Second Temple) and Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary or Haram al-Sharif (because they believe it's the site from which the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven and received instructions from God).

In the meeting, Erekat tells Mitchell that the Palestinians are also willing to cede control of the Jewish and Armenian Quarters of the Old City, which surrounds the religious sites, to Israel. He doesn't explicitly say that international administration of the holy sites is what he has in mind, but that's the strong implication. There "are creative ways, having a body or a committee, having undertakings, for example, not to dig. The only thing I cannot do is convert to Zionism."

The entire Old City is now on the Israeli side of the 1967 Green Line, and the kinds of concessions indicated in the meeting would be major ones. They may also infuriate Palestinians who see the status of the Old City as non-negotiable.

#3 The Palestinian right of return

The full documents have not been released yet and there's been some confused reporting on the issue of the right of return - whether Palestinian refugees will be allowed in any agreement to return to their pre-1948 homes in what is now Israel. …

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