Al-Jazeera has released thousands of previously classified documents which due to their content will likely bring the already sensitive situation in the Middle East to a boil once again. While the document progenitor could well be Wikileaks, the TV network refuses to disclose the source: "Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, Al Jazeera will not reveal the source(s) or detail how they came into our possession. We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity." As for what is contained: "The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials." Apparently, the disclosure is so sensitive that the ISP of the Palestinian authority has just blocked the Aljazeera site containing the early releases. We look forward to reading the documents as they are released between January 23 and 26. Judging by the prompt retaliation they will be worth the read: according to the Palestinian Authority, Al-Jazeera has just declared was on Palestinians, which intuitively makes little sense.
Over the last several months, Al Jazeera has been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are nearly 1,700 files, thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence detailing the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. These documents – memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations – date from 1999 to 2010.
The material is voluminous and detailed; it provides an unprecedented look inside the continuing negotiations involving high-level American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials.
Al Jazeera will release the documents between January 23-26th, 2011. They will reveal new details about:
* the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to concede illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, and to be “creative” about the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount;
* the compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return;
* details of the PA’s security cooperation with Israel;
* and private exchanges between Palestinian and American negotiators in late 2009, when the Goldstone Report was being discussed at the United Nations.
Because of the sensitive nature of these documents, Al Jazeera will not reveal the source(s) or detail how they came into our possession. We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity.
We believe this material will prove to be of inestimable value to journalists, scholars, historians, policymakers and the general public.
We know that some of what is presented here will prove controversial, but it is our intention to inform, not harm, to spark debate and reflection – not dampen it. Our readers and viewers will note that we have provided a comments section in which to express opinions. In keeping with our editorial policies, we reserve the right to excise comments that we deem inappropriate, but all civil voices will be heard, all opinions respected.
We present these papers as a service to our viewers and readers as a reflection of our fundamental belief – that public debate and public policies grow, flourish and endure when given air and light.
The 4 coincident releases are the following:
- "The biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history": PA offered to concede almost all of East Jerusalem, an historic concession for which Israel offered nothing in return
- Erekat's solution for the Haram: The PA's chief negotiator suggested unprecedented compromises on the division of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
- The "napkin map" revealed: The Palestine Papers include a rendering of the Israeli land swap map presented in mid-2008 to Mahmoud Abbas.
- Glossary: Frequently asked questions
And here is the official response by the PA as described by Jerusalem Post:
PA: Al-Jazeera has declared war on Palestinians
A senior Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah on Sunday strongly condemned the Al-Jazeera TV network for publishing hundreds of documents concerning the peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis.
"Al-Jazeera has declared war on the Palestinians," the official told The Jerusalem Post. "This station serves the interests of the enemies of the Palestinians."
Asked if the PA was now considering measures against Al-Jazeera, the official said he did not see how a TV station that "incites" against the Palestinians would be able to continue operating in the West Bank. However, he said that PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is currently in Cairo, would decided on the PA's response to the exposure of the documents in the coming hours.
In his first response to the documents that were revealed by Al-Jazeera, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that he did not know how the TV network had obtained secret documents.
"We don't hide anything from our Arab brothers," Abbas told editors of Egyptian newspapers in Cairo. "We have been briefing our Arab brothers about all our activities with the Israelis and Americans."
PLO Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat denied that the PA had agreed to make far-reaching concessions on Jerusalem.
Erekat criticized Al-Jazeera for reporting about the documents. “This is a theater,” he said. “This is part of a campaign targeting President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA at a time when we are going to the UN Security Council regarding the settlements.”
Erekat confirmed, however, that the Palestinians and Israelis had talked about land swaps in Jerusalem and the West Bank. “Yes, we talked about land swaps,” he told Al-Jazeera. “Olmert presented us with a map about the land swap. The swap is part of international law.”
Erekat said that Abbas, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, refused to make far-reaching territorial concessions to Israel in Jerusalem. “East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state,” he stated. “All of east Jerusalem.”
Erekat also strongly denied that former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei [Abu Ala] had agreed to give up parts of Sheikh Jarrah, in east Jerusalem, to Israel. He also denied that the PA had voiced opposition to giving Jordan any role in east Jerusalem.
“We are now facing a battle with [Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu and we are facing threats and pressures,” Erekat complained. “I don’t know where these documents came from and I would like to know who gave them to Al-Jazeera.”
Erekat also denied that the PA had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said that when he was asked by Israel to accept this demand, he replied that it was tantamount to asking a Palestinian to join the Zionist movement.
Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, responded angrily: “Who gave the PLO the right to make concessions on Jerusalem? The PLO does not represent the Palestinians.”
Atwan said it was outrageous that four Palestinian offcials were negotiating on behalf of all Palestinians and making concessions without being authorized to do so. He named the officials as Saeb Erekat, Salam Fayyad, Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Abed Rabbo.