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Purportedly Leaked Papers Reveal Palestinian Peace Offers

January 25, 2011
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The documents also claim that the Palestinians were open to an agreement with the Israelis over the number of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who would be allowed into Israel.

Despite the reported openness to move towards the middle in some of the key Palestinian positions, there remained points of disagreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, including a neighborhood in East Jerusalem and two major settlements in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria].  

Due to the Arab–Israeli wars in the first 20 years of Israel’s existence, a number of Palestinian refugees fled Israel. Today, those refugees and their descendants are believed to number in the millions. A key Palestinian negotiating position has been that many of the refugees should be allowed to “return” to Israel, whereas the Israelis say refugees should move to what would then be Palestine, just as Jewish refugees fled to Israel.

According to The Guardian, Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas expressed an understanding of the impossibility of millions of Palestinians flooding Israel after a peace deal, saying privately in a meeting, “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million. That would mean the end of Israel.”

Instead, The Guardian links Palestinian statements about the Israeli position under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as being acceptable. The papers said chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed Olmert accepted 10,000 refugees and later told the Americans that “on refugees, the deal is there.” He also gave European Union diplomats a document saying they were open to Israeli willingness to accept 15,000 refugees.  

Regarding Jerusalem, The Guardian claimed the Palestinians were willing for Israel to annex all but one of the major Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, while a document posted on The Guardian’s Web site said such land exchanges would be for land with an equal value, such as other territory in Jerusalem. More importantly, The Guardian claimed that Erekat mentioned the possibility of “creative” solutions for control of the Temple Mount  with a “body or a committee.”

While the Palestinian positions appear to be closer in line with traditional expectations of a peace deal that is acceptable to most Israelis, disagreements remain. Of those, some of the major problem points involve Palestinian demands to take the Jewish neighborhood of Har Homa in Jerusalem and the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel in the West Bank. One document posted on The Guardian Web site said the location of Ma’ale Adumim was an issue for the Palestinians, as they claimed it blocked Jerusalem from the east, whereas the Ariel settlement was linked to control of the water basin there.  

A separate document had Erekat mentioning the possibility of allowing Jews to stay in the settlements as citizens under Palestinian sovereignty. Tens of thousands of Israelis live in the two settlement cities, which have been around for decades.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel has generally avoided making public statements about the documents, aside from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman telling Israel Radio that the documents show that even the “left-wing” Olmert government could not reach a deal with the Palestinians. Lieberman called for a “long-term interim agreement” with the Palestinians instead.

The political ramifications of the leak could also impact the current peace process. In the US, spokesman Philip Crowley acknowledged that the document release “will, at least for a time, make the [peace process] situation more difficult than it already was.” Crowley noted the documents were not from the US, and they could not “vouch for their veracity,” nor did they intend to comment on specific documents.

Posted on January 25, 2011

Source: (By Joshua Spurlock, BFP Israel Mosaic Radio, January 24, 2011)

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