Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Palileaks Reading Confirms Israeli Narrative of Olmert-Abbas Negotiations

According to the new reading of the Palestine Papers,
Erekat made the Jerusalem remakrs, 'in his private capacity.'

You would be hard pressed to find much mention in the MSM of the Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East (Fair Witness) analysis of Al Jazeera's Palestine Papers -- Palileaks -- that show that the received wisdom circulating about Palestinian readiness to concede on the major obstacles were exaggerated, to say the least. With the Palestinians lobbying the universe for acceptance of a self-declared state on the basis that reaching an agreement with Israel is impossible and pointing to how close they were to reaching an agreement with Ehud Olmert, it is crucial that this report makes its way into the mainstream.

Have a look at the Fair Witness website for a detailed analysis of the Palileaks docs. This organization is a welcome liberal counterweight to the generally hostile mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches and I hope they will be gaining notice, especially as annual conferences assemble with the usual Israel-boycotters hijacking agendas.

As summarized in the Jerusalem Post, the Fair Witness report contends that, especially on land swaps, Jerusalem and the Right of Return, Mahmood Abbas etal weren't really all that agreeable:

“The key concession that the Palestinians were reported to have made was control over Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Al Jazeera broadcast that the Palestinians had offered to “let Israel keep all but one of the Jewish enclaves it built in East Jerusalem,” referring to Har Homa, and settlements over the Green Line amounting to some 2 percent of the land controlled by Jordan between 1948 and 1967.

But Christians for Fair Witness found that the Palestine Papers did not indicate that Abbas made a counter- offer to Olmert’s August 31 proposal. They revealed documents indicating that the Palestinians had decided ahead of the final Olmert-Abbas meeting on September 16 not to issue a counter-offer at that meeting and that Abbas had been advised by his team to wait to respond until George W. Bush was out of the White House.

A December 2, 2008, memo indicated that in response to Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch’s question about Olmert’s offer, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Welch that “We offered a 2% swap that would allow 70% of the settlers to remain.”

But the 2% figure is not mentioned at all in either a September 16, 2008, memo of “talking points” for Abbas at his final meeting with Olmert, or a September 22, 2008, memo of “Palestinian Talking Points Regarding Israeli Proposal.” Therefore, it appears that the 2% figure did not play a part in the Palestinian thinking about possible responses to Olmert’s package offer. Moreover, there is no indication whatsoever of this figure having been presented to Olmert post-September 16, 2008.

“Nowhere in the Palestine Papers is there any indication that Abbas ever communicated this ‘counter-offer’ of a ‘2% swap’ – or any other – to Olmert,” the organization wrote.

“And while the Palestinians had memos and maps outlining the Israeli offer in detail, there is no documentation in the Palestine Papers of the parameters of a counter-offer designed to respond to this offer.”

THE SECOND concession the Palestinians reportedly made in the talks with Olmert involved the fate of the Temple Mount and the Holy Basin.

“The [PA] proposed international control of the key Jerusalem holy site,” the reports said.

But the documents revealed by Christians for Fair Witness found that Al Jazeera had wrongly portrayed the international control over the Holy Basin as an official PA proposal. In the document, Erekat told American diplomats – and not Olmert – that he was speaking in his private capacity “That was not an offer, it was just talk,” the organization said.

Finally, on the refugee issue, Al Jazeera reported that the Palestinians had agreed that Israel would only take in 10,000 refugees a year for 10 years for a total of 100,000, giving up their demand that all refugees from 1948 and their descendants – amounting to several million people – enter Israel.

But the documents highlighted by Christians for Fair Witness report a conversation between Abbas and Olmert that Erekat recounted, in which Abbas said, “Are you joking?” to Olmert’s figure of 10,000 over 10 years. In a September 22, 2008, internal memo drafted in response to Olmert’s offer, it states that “while we agree to negotiate the number of returnees in consideration of Israel’s capacity of absorption, this particular offer cannot be taken seriously.”

The Palestinians estimated Israel’s absorption capacity at slightly more than a million people over a 10-year period. That’s the only concession the Palestinians were willing to make on the issue. And even that would be only temporary.

They expected additional “returns” later on.”
Read the whole article here.

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