In January, the Guardian and Al Jazeera revealed a collection of Palestinian documents that purported to shed light on the Palestinian Authority’s negotiations with Israel. Their reporting on the documents painted the Palestinians as reasonable and the Israelis as intransigent. But both the Guardian and Al Jazeera are openly hostile to Israel, so this may have colored their selection of documents to publicize.
Now an article in the Jerusalem Post does indeed paint a different picture. The Post reports that a full reading of the documents, rather than the ones cherry-picked by the Guardian and Al Jazeera, actually supports Israel and casts doubt on the Palestinians’ offer of concessions. There’s an important caveat: the documents were reviewed by an organization that seems basically unknown.
The article is pretty much unexcerptable, so I’ll pick one example:
THE KEY concession that the Palestinians were reported to have made was control over Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Al Jazeera broadcast that the Palestinians had offered to “let Israel keep all but one of the Jewish enclaves it built in East Jerusalem,” referring to Har Homa, and settlements over the Green Line amounting to some 2 percent of the land controlled by Jordan between 1948 and 1967.
But Christians for Fair Witness found that the Palestine Papers did not indicate that Abbas made a counter- offer to Olmert’s August 31 proposal. They revealed documents indicating that the Palestinians had decided ahead of the final Olmert-Abbas meeting on September 16 not to issue a counter-offer at that meeting and that Abbas had been advised by his team to wait to respond until George W. Bush was out of the White House.
A December 2, 2008, memo indicated that in response to Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch’s question about Olmert’s offer, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat told Welch that “We offered a 2% swap that would allow 70% of the settlers to remain.”
But the 2% figure is not mentioned at all in either a September 16, 2008, memo of “talking points” for Abbas at his final meeting with Olmert, or a September 22, 2008, memo of “Palestinian Talking Points Regarding Israeli Proposal.” Therefore, it appears that the 2% figure did not play a part in the Palestinian thinking about possible responses to Olmert’s package offer. Moreover, there is no indication whatsoever of this figure having been presented to Olmert post-September 16, 2008.
It’s a little hard to know what to make of this. The Guardian and Al Jazeera are hostile to Israel. The Jerusalem Post is generally friendly to Israel, of course, but as a western newspaper it is often sharply critical of its government. However it wasn’t the Post that did the analysis, but this unknown Christian organization. I was able to find the September 16, 2008 memo (mentioned above) myself using the Al Jazeera search tool, and it does say what the organization claims. But other documents mentioned in the article were hard to find. I wish a mainstream news outlet would do an independent review.
(Via the PJ Tatler.)