A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, January 24, 2011

The "Palestine Papers"

I'm certainly going to have more to say on the major story that broke this weekend, what Al Jazeera English is calling "The Palestine Papers," confidential documents relating to negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel (and the US) over the years, including apparent evidence the PA was willing to make far greater concessions than has been publicly acknowledged. These includes revelations about Jerusalem, the Haram al-Sharif, proposed Israeli land swaps, and so on. Al Jazeera's "Transparency Unit" has search engines in English and Arabic for searching those papers published so far. Key PA figures — Mahmoud ‘Abbas, Saeb ‘Erekat, Yasir ‘Abd Rabbo — are denying offering far-reaching concessions and charging that Al Jazeera has "distorted" the facts, and I suspect the key is going to be finding out not just what's in the headlines but what the documents actually say.

What's clear for now is that there is already considerable criticism of the PA within the Palestinian territories and abroad, and that whoever leaked these documents sought to embarrass ‘Abbas and the PA leadership generally.

I'll have more to say when I've read more, but I suspect the documents may reflect feelers, trial balloons, and other exploratory discussions in the course of negotiations. But the effect may be a bombshell in internal Palestinian politics.

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