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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 01/25/2011

The selling of the 'Palestine Papers'

By Jackson Diehl

Anyone familiar with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the last decade will find nothing surprising about the supposed revelations in the "Palestine papers" published this week by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera and Britain's Guardian newspaper. Since at least the time of the 2000 Camp David talks brokered by President Bill Clinton, Palestinian leaders have accepted that Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will be annexed by Israel in a two-state settlement, and that only a handful of Palestinian refugees will "return" to the Jewish state -- the leading "news" reported so far.

What's sensational about the leaked documents, which appear to come from advisors to the Palestinian negotiating team, is the way they are being marketed by the two news organizations -- and how Palestinians are reacting to them. According to Al Jazeera, the negotiating positions on Jerusalem and refugees are shocking betrayals of the Palestinian cause, if not the Arab world as a whole. For the Guardian, they demonstrate the intransigence and the perfidy of Israel and the United States -- for supposedly failing to embrace such far-reaching concessions.

"PA selling short the refugees," Al Jazeera announced Tuesday on its English-language website, referring to the Palestinian authority of Mahmoud Abbas. "Barack Obama lifts then crushes Palestinian peace hopes," proclaimed The Guardian.

These are gross distortions. Not only have the reported Palestinian compromise positions been widely (if quietly) accepted by Arab governments, they were broadcast years ago in the Geneva Accord, a model agreement between Israeli and Palestinian leaders that was endorsed by Abbas, among others. Israel, for its part, responded with far-reaching compromises of its own: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a Palestinian state with sovereignty over Jerusalem and all but six percent of The West Bank. It was Abbas, not Olmert, who refused to go forward during those 2008 talks.

The leak of the documents seems motivated by a desire to bury the already moribund peace process. "Al Jazeera is trying to destroy Abbas, and the Guardian wants to get Netanyahu," an Israeli official observes. They may well succeed, at least in the case of the aging and weak Palestinian president. Palestinian negotiators have felt obliged to deny and repudiate the reported concessions, even as they are denounced by their hard-line rivals in the Hamas movement.

Of course, the Palestinians helped to create their predicament. For years they have systematically failed to prepare their public opinion for the concessions that will have to be part of any two-state settlement. Is it really conceivable that Israel would or could tear down East Jerusalem neighborhoods where 190,000 of its citizens now live, or allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to move inside its pre-1967 borders? No one seriously engaged in Middle East diplomacy -- American, Arab or European -- thinks so. But that has never been explained to most Palestinians.

In fact, Abbas and his Palestinian team are currently refusing to negotiate with Netanyahu in part because he has refused to freeze construction in East Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods -- the same neighborhoods that the Palestinians have agreed that Israel will keep.

The sad irony is that if the Palestinian papers reveal anything, it is the yawning gap that continues to exist between the most generous Israeli and Palestinian offers. While accepting the inevitability of Israeli annexation in Jerusalem, the Palestinians are shown to reject the transfer to Israel of several of the largest West Bank settlements -- including Maale Adumin, a development that Abbas conceded to Israel in the Geneva Initiative. As a simple matter of practicality, it's difficult to imagine Israel evacuating a town that lies just outside Jerusalem and contains 35,000 people.

Abbas's number for returning refugees -- 100,000 over ten years -- was ten times higher than that of Olmert. Meanwhile both Netanyahu and principal Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni oppose any return of refugees.

Now, thanks to Al Jazeera and the Guardian, Palestinians are retreating even from their not-good-enough ideas. Far from coming under pressure to make new concessions, Netanyahu and his right-wing government can relax in the knowledge that the peace process is going backward. Leaks of documents are supposed to provide clarity. The Palestine papers have merely muddied the diplomatic waters.

By Jackson Diehl  | January 25, 2011; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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Someone needs to put Palestine and Israel in a time out...and not let them out until they can get along. Is there no way that there can be peace??!!? Somehow Jews and Palestinians have found a way to co-exist here in the US without constantly fighting... it would be nice if those in the middle east could learn from their example. I don't know about anyone else, but I for one am sick and tired of hearing about this, just get over it and live together in peace!

Posted by: JoshDeckerBand | January 25, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Either way, Israel cannot complain the Palestinians were never serious about peace.

The Israeli colonies in the West Bank are illegal, period. They have to go, period. By any means necessary. Hey, how did Israel remove Palestinians in 1948? There's the method for removing the illegal colonies.

And above all, it's time for the US to dump Israel. If certain ethnic or religious groups in the US have a problem with this, too bad.

Posted by: Garak | January 25, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I will never pretend to understand why both Israelis and Palestinians take such joy in their shared misery?

Is this just a game of persistence and fatigue, a last man standing ritual?

Then I'd say unfortunately both sides are equally matched.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | January 25, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

You know, I would love to believe that this is a piece of straight reporting/commentary by Diehl. I really would. Unfortunately, Fred Hiatt's neocon AIPAC-paid editorial staff has proven itself over time to be so laughably pro-Israel-no-apologies-for-anything-ever that it would be irrational of me to trust that I'm getting a straight reading of this here. This piece has alerted me that there has been a political development in the whole Israeli-Palestinian jockeying game, but nothing more. I will have to go elsewhere to get the parts Diehl is conveniently leaving out.

It's a shame, because the Washington Post used to be not just taken seriously, but widely respected in this town.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 25, 2011 1:19 PM | Report abuse

You know, I would love to believe that this is a piece of straight reporting/commentary by Diehl. I really would. Unfortunately, Fred Hiatt's neocon AIPAC-paid editorial staff has proven itself over time to be so laughably pro-Israel-no-apologies-for-anything-ever that it would be irrational of me to trust that I'm getting a straight reading of this here. This piece has alerted me that there has been a political development in the whole Israeli-Palestinian jockeying game, but nothing more. I will have to go elsewhere to get the parts Diehl is conveniently leaving out.

It's a shame, because the Washington Post used to be not just taken seriously, but widely respected in this town.

Posted by: B2O2 | January 25, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

To tell the truth the Palestinians stubborn behavior as far as negotiations is concerned has literally eroded any sympathy I may have had. To tell the truth the Palestinians have been more interested in scoring propaganda points than in actually getting anything by compromising in negotiations.

Till the Palestinians get a clue that they are not going to get all they want handed to them on a silver platter negotiations are not going to get anywhere.

This is not to say that the Israelis are absolved of all blame as far as peace negotiations but I will observe that a Lions share of the blame falls on the Palestinians.

Posted by: werehawk | January 25, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

The Palestinians have long been the architects of their own limited existence vis Israel. It is as if they believe they cannot survive politically without a hated enemy as their focus.

Posted by: Crmudgeon | January 25, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, those Palestinians really need to go back to wherever they came from -- oh, wait, they're not allowed due to their religion and language, and we don't understand the problem with that, or why that problem just won't go away.

Jackson Diehl -- you know, the Guardian's analysis on Iraq was way more accurate than the Post in 2003. If only you guys were a little more brave.

Posted by: daharbin | January 25, 2011 1:22 PM | Report abuse

So, Dheil,

it's always been known and agreed that Israel will annex and keep East Jersusalem and keep most/all of it's west bank settlements? And NO right of return?

But then, the US and the rest of the world, is sick to death of Israel., certainly including the US. Israel never has been, never will be anything but savage warmongering problem.

And now figuring out how to invade Lebanon because of their new, parliamentarily chosen PM...: Iran and Syria allways on the war map.
And the US expected to approve and pay?

Posted by: whistling | January 25, 2011 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Surely this column is printed as a joke

Only the most rabid zionists would believe it, or think anyone else would.

Even as propoganda it's disgusting. Are none of them ashamed?

Posted by: whistling | January 25, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I don't agree with the analysis. I believe the Palestinian negotiating position is bolstered. This is based on two-level games theory of negotiation. The Palestinian negotiators can now say we cannot easily give up 'x' or 'y' domestically so you have to give us 'x' or 'y' to ease the pain. Now certainly there can be an impasse, but if the US ever applied pressure for a solution then the Palestinians now have significant leverage. The Palestinians were clearly 'losers' if their plan had been accepted. They give up their land/right of refugees for going back in return for the status quo 1967 while Israel actually gains settlements it built in violation of international law and comes out ahead of 1967

Posted by: JP11 | January 25, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Something to keep in mind when talking about Israel vs. Palestine is that one side (Israel) has clearly been supported more then the other. This is a conflict between Israel and Palestine, that's it... no country, other then those two should have ever got involved...

Posted by: JoshDeckerBand | January 25, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

The furious backpedaling and denials of the PLO certainly calls the lie to Jackson Diehl's key point that for a decade this has been old news. The Zionist bloggers have also been absent in their usual full court press attack across the internet. Why?

Well, drawing more attention to the humiliating position Israel has imposed over the Palestinians is not good for a state that made victim hood its national bird.

What was clear from the documents is that Israel is working the clock judiciously while building a ring (with US support)of housing and settlements around the entirety of Jerusalem. Israel is continuing to construct new homelands on Palestinian soil in the west bank in contravention of international law.

Israel and the US lost a great deal of international respect with the true facts getting out. The PLO was further disgraced in their pathetic way of standing up for Palestine (by negotiating with themselves), in their deceptive approach to communicating with their people and in their craven method of collaborating with Israeli security.

Posted by: FoundingMother | January 25, 2011 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Nice to see blind men acting as sightseeing tour guides.

Posted by: sweetfellow | January 25, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

You can always count on Jackson Diehl to be shilling for Israeli theft of land from and subjugation of the Palestinian people. I wonder does Mr. Diehl hold dual citizenship? Is he a registered Israeli lobbyist? He should since all he does is feed us Israeli propaganda. All anyone has do is look at a map of Israel and what remains of the one half of their land that the United Nations so generously allowed the Palestinian to retain when they gave away their land to appease Zionist terrorists who had been murdering UN and British officials for years in Palestine and Jerusalem. Actually the map you generally see is generous to the Palestinians since Israel has peppered the area with illegal settlements further reducing Palestinian holdings shown. Any honest person will be appalled and disgusted!

Posted by: trbajaz | January 25, 2011 2:51 PM | Report abuse

It is beyond belief that anyone could take issue with this column which basically says that the palestinian leadership does the palestinians a disservice by saying one thing in public and another in private. What do the posters say, they are filled with anti Israel and anti semitc rants that have nothing to do with the article. That is the reality of the Palestinian - Isreali debate; forget the facts it all emotional.

Diehl is 100% right in his analysis. What jerks go around spurning negotiatons over an issue that privatley they have given in on, building in jerusalem. Its self destructive and self defeating, so why do it. Because as we see in Lebanon, if you don't agree with the Islamists, you get killed. So abbas publically toes the party line and in private makes sense. This is so absurd that three weeks ago Erekat wrote an op-ed for the london Times in which he stated that there can be no peace without the right of reurn and all the time he privately agreed that the right of return was dead. Had he taken the time to prepare the Palestinians for the reality he knew was coming, the peace process would be farther long.

The Palestinian papers show that peace is possible but the that the palestinians need to come out of the closet and tell it like it is. That will help sway both the Isreali and US public who now believe that the Palestinians are delusional and intractable. It will also shut up the haters who blame Israel for everything and anything that is worng in this world .. and probably on other planets too.

Posted by: RealityCheck28 | January 25, 2011 2:58 PM | Report abuse

RealityCheck28: the situation in Lebanon isn't about Islamists. There are Christians and Druze aligned with Hezbollah -- it's a sectarian power struggle. Sabra and Chatila was done by Christian militiamen with Israeli oversight -- no Islamists involved there.

Posted by: daharbin | January 25, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

another AIPAC mouthpiece till this country USA is sold lock stcok and barrel to KEEP ISRAEL's existence AIPAC and its supporters will not be satisfied. what happened to all the UN RESOLUTIONS that are used to crush the muslims of the world, YET the resolution from 1967 by UN to return all land conquered by zuionist state has never been implemented. Where are the western HYPOCRITS who talk democracry but will only support MUSLIM TYRANTS. MORE TUNISIAS are needed and the first durly elected GOVT in TUNISIA should do is throw FRENCH and AMERICAN HYPOCRITS out

Posted by: khafeez1 | January 25, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

This article conveniently misses this from the leaks:

Tzipi Livni said:

“Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible . . . the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it had been “the policy of the government for a really long time”.

Posted by: iksrazal | January 25, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Hey RealityCheck28:

Just having an opinion other then that of Israel or Israel's supporters doesn't make that person an anti-semite. I think a lot of people are fed up with the way Israel has acted in regards to Palestine...that doesn't make them antt-semites. You mentioned how there's too much emotion in this subject, yet your the one who just brought up the emotional "anti-semite" finger pointing.

I think to put all the blame on Israel is wrong... but to put none of the blame on Israel and resort to "anti-semite" name calling makes you just as bad as the people you are complaining about.

Posted by: JoshDeckerBand | January 25, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Diehl, Goebbels must be proud of you. Everybody except you knows that our problems in the Middle East and the Muslim world are caused by our misbegotten policy: finance the dictator and bomb the resistance. As Tunis shows: the chickens are coming home to roost.

Posted by: rsliazas | January 25, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Jackson Diehl has made a career of being an apologist of and outright advocate for violations of international law against Palestinians. Why should this column be any different?

Posted by: MalcolmYoung | January 25, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

b202 I must agree with you on this one and would like to ad that we all should try and find more than one source for all article we read.

Posted by: | January 25, 2011 7:33 PM | Report abuse

It is a shame that almost everything under the sun seems possible but for two ancient peoples to sit down and conclude an agreement that is desperately in the interest of both. It doesn't really matter who said what when. What matters is that the Palestinian and Israeli publics need to be given a reason to believe in peace and the tools to understand and accept what its contours will look like and mean in East Jerusalem, Maale Adumin, Hebron and to some 5 million refugees the day after. Until both peoples have partaken in an internationally sponsored peace education campaign neither government is going to risk itself by honestly engaging in and completing final status negotiations.

Posted by: ldsnider | January 26, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

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