maandag 24 januari 2011

Palestine Papers: lees tussen de regels

Ik blijf benadrukken: het is nog niet duidelijk wat er precies klopt van deze documenten, waarvan sommigen zelfs menen dat ze een hoax zijn. Het zou zomaar kunnen dat dit slechts delen van de conversaties zijn, dat posities niet adequaat zijn weergegeven etc. We moeten ook niet vergeten dat zelfs als ze kloppen en zelfs als de medewerkers die deze verslagen schreven dit naar eer en geweten deden, het Palestijnse verslagen zijn, door hun bril bekeken. De Israelische verslagen zien er wellicht heel anders uit. 
Daarnaast kun je je afvragen waarom Al Jazeera ze nu naar buiten bracht. Al Jazeera wordt gefinancierd door Qatar, dat zelfs meer sympathie heeft voor Hamas dan voor de PA. Niet geheel toevallig brengen deze documenten de PA ernstig in verlegenheid, en zijn ze koren op de molen van Hamas, dat de PA immers graag als verraders afschildert.
Tot slot wordt er beweerd dat de PA vergaande compromissen heeft gedaan op het gebied van vluchtelingen, en Israel als Joodse staat zou willen erkennen, maar dat is niet in de documenten terug te vinden. Integendeel: Saeb Erekat beweert in een van de documenten dat Israel als Joodse staat erkennen zou betekenen dat hij lid moet worden van de zionistische beweging, en dat gaat hem te ver.

Reading between the PaliLeaks lines

It is not clear if, or how, "The Palestine Papers" were edited, and very little new information can be found in the documents.

There are a number of key points to keep in mind when reading the Palestinian documents leaked to Al-Jazeera, and then shared by that news organization with the Guardian newspaper.

·        First, WikiLeaks this aint

While many of the US diplomatic cables published on the WikiLeaks site were written by relatively objective US observers in capitals around the world, the  PaliLeaks documents were written by a party to the negotiations -- invested in the negotiations -- who present a Palestinian perspective of events that transpired.

·        It is not clear if, or how, the documents were edited.

With the WikiLeaks cables, one reads the entire US diplomatic cable, complete with all the diplomatic shorthand (like GOI for Government of Israel). Here, the reader does not know exactly what kind of document one is reading – whether it is the full document, or what has been left out.

Just as all knowledgeable media consumers know not to take what is reported on Al- Jazeera as eternal truth, but rather strain it through layers of skepticism to filter out the network's own agenda (the same is true, to a lesser extent, with the Guardian's reporting on the Middle East), that same mechanism must kick in when analyzing these documents.

Why is Al-Jazeera releasing the documents? Which documents is it releasing? What is Qatar's agenda?

Remember, Al-Jazeera is paid for by Qatar. Qatar is quarrelling with Saudi Arabia; is trying to cover its bets with Iran; is known for its sympathy for Hamas. Qatar, and thereby Al-Jazeera, is not necessarily guided by a desire to see success in Israeli-PA negotiations.

·        The Israeli public does not pay enough serious attention to what the Palestinians say.

One of the glaring elements in the documents has to do with the Palestinian position on Ma'ale Adumim.

Since a parade of Israeli politicians from Yossi Sarid and Yossi Beilin on the left, to Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon in the center, have said in the past that Ma'ale Adumim will be inside Israel in any future agreement, there is a tendency among the Israeli public to  believe that, indeed, is what eventually will transpire. 

Read these documents, however, and it becomes clear that this given – it even appeared in the Geneva Accords – is no given at all. The Palestinians are adamantly opposed to the annexation to Israel of Ma'ale Adumim, as well as Ariel, and give no indication of softening that position.

This is a bit reminiscent of the rude awakening many Israelis had in 1993, after the Oslo accords. Much of the public had convinced itself that there was no way in the world that the Palestinians really believed that under an agreement the Palestinian refugees would be allowed back into Israel,  only to wake up and find that – indeed – the Palestinians really believed that. Not only did they believe it, but they were going to battle for it.

·        There is not that much new here, though just a little

After the dust settles, it will become apparent that there is nothing earth-shatteringly new in the documents.  That the Palestinians were willing to let Israel annex the Jewish neighborhoods over the Green Line, with the exception of Har Homa, is not new, nor a sign – whatever Al-Jazeera and the Guardian would have one believe – of unsurpassed flexibility.

This was discussed at Camp David, and enshrined in the Clinton parameter formula – that the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem will be under Israeli sovereignty, and the Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty.

It was part of the 2003 Geneva Accord as well as one of the principles of the 2002 agreement between Ami Ayalon and Sari Nuseeibeh

If anything, the Palestinian demand in the documents for Har Homa is a step back from this benchmark.

Furthermore, that there was discussion regarding "a creative solution" to the issue of the Holy basin should not been seen as a sign of great Palestinian elasticity, since everyone knows that ideas about this were discussed as far back as 2000 (if not earlier) by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak at Camp David. 

One new element that emerged, or an element that the public might not be aware of, is a Palestinians willingness to let the settlements remain in a future Palestinian state, if the Jews living there agree to live under Palestinian sovereignty.

The default setting among Israelis when talking about a future agreement is that all settlements have to evacuated and all Jews moved out, just as was done in Sinai and Gaza.

But then one reads the documents and hears Ahmed Qurei saying the Jews can stay. That, for many, will seem new. Will they be safe? That is a completely different question - which Tzipi Livni answers in the negative in the documents. But the PA is not – at least according to these documents –demanding a state totally free of Jews. .

·        The PA reaction to PaliLeaks shows we're moving backward

Rather than taking the publication of the documents and saying loudly and proudly that this shows a willingness to give up on maximalist Palestinian demands, the PA reaction was the complete opposite. It was to deny everything, and to say that the PA will not give up an inch.

And that's a problem.

The documents, like Wikileaks, shows again the huge gap between what Arab leaders say in public and what they say in private. In the WikiLeaks documents this was seen in how Arab leaders talked behind closed doors about Iran, compared to what they said in front of the microphones.

The same can be seen here as well. In public it is "not one inch," though in private the tone is somewhat different.  The PA had the chance Monday to say in public what it apparently said in private, that it was not cleaving to the last grain of sand. But it failed the test, something that doesn't bode well for the future.

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