What is to be learned from the Palestine Papers

On Sunday evening, the satellite channel Al Jazeera and the British newspaper The Guardian revealed some 1,600 secret documents concerning the negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. These expose some proposals made by the PA, and other inconvenient truths for the Palestinian government already lacking of legitimacy.

During the so called « Annapolis » negotiation round, the PA would have offered Israel to keep all the Israeli settlements around East-Jerusalem except the one of Har Homa. The PA would also have accepted a partial waiver of the right to return, accepting a limitation to 10,000 refugees over ten years. Moreover, some Palestinian officials seem to have been warned in advance of the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008.
Apart from the content of these proposals, what are we actually learning from the Palestine Papers?

First, they reveal the extreme weakness of the Palestinian Authority which enters into negotiations even with a very weak position. The acceptation by the Palestinian people of such an agreement seems also difficult to imagine. The Palestine Papers show a real disconnection between the PA and the Palestinian civil society. While Israeli and Palestinian organizations ar fighting against the creeping colonization of East Jerusalem, the PA seems to concede to Israel what Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat calls « the largest Jewish Jerusalem in history”.
Secondly, we must read that the Israeli negotiators refused these proposals, considering them insufficient. The government was yet from a coalition led by Kadima, a party that now seeks to present itself as the most acceptable partner for negotiations. The Israeli government likes to say he cannot negotiate, lacking of a consistent partner. The Palestine Papers belie this argument.

Thirdly, the grant by the PA of most Israeli settlements around East Jerusalem, and even some parts of the Arab part of town (see map on the blog « Guerre ou paix » of Le Monde), means that the situation there is increasingly alarming. As already noted the report written by the heads of EU missions in East Jerusalem (available in its entirety on BBC website), the Judaization of East Jerusalem leads to a de facto change in the nature of this part of the city, making virtually impossible the establishment the capital of a future Palestinian state there.

The Palestine Papers tell nothing new to those who are well informed, but point the necessity of a policy change on behalf of the international community. The pressures on the PA so that it resumes negotiations can only worsen the situation. The statements without consequences will never prevent the continuation of the building of the settlements.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée