Al-Jazeera today revealed it possesses 1,600 documents and minutes on previously unknown details, deals and secrets of the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The documents, the “Palestine Papers” — leaked exclusively to the Qatar-based TV news channel by sources it didn’t disclose — appear to be from the Palestinian Negotiations Department.
The Palestine Papers expose a weak Palestinian leadership offering concession after concession to Israel throughout the negotiations.
Ahram Online was amongst a select group of experts and journalists who were given access to the documents prior to their release. According to the minutes, the Palestinian Authority ceded several Palestinian rights, made unprecedented concessions in East Jerusalem, accepted land swaps with Israel, and cooperated with Israel against the resistance in both the West Bank and Gaza.
Al-Jazeera began releasing selected documents from the cache tonight and will continue to highlight the most important themes and revelations in the Palestine Papers throughout the next three days.
Today Ahram Online publishes excerpts of a meeting between Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat, Deputy US Envoy David Hale and US State Department Legal Advisor Jonathon Schwartz where Erekat appears to offer compromises on the Haram Al-Sharif compound — the third holiest site in Islam and where Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are situated.
In the below minutes of the meeting, dated 21 October 2009, Erekat talks in his “private capacity” and suggests “creative ways” to discuss the Haram Al-Sharif compound which is located within the 1967 borders of the occupied Palestinian territories.
Erekat proposes revisiting the “Clinton parameters” that were the base of the failed 2000 Camp David talks. The parameters included dividing the sovereignty of East Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians. The offer was rejected by then Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
This is the first time that a Palestinian official is documented at hinting that control of the Haram Al-Sharif compound may be open to negotiation, even if only in a “private” capacity.
21 October 2009
Saeb Erekat to deputy US envoy David Hale and State Department legal advisor Jonathan Schwartz
Erekat: Even the Old City can be worked out (discusses breakdown of sovereignty over Old City) except for the Haram [Al-Sharif] and what they call the Temple Mount. There you need the creativity of people like me …
[George Mitchell rejoins the meeting]
Erekat: I want to point out I am answering in my personal capacity on these questions …
Schwartz: Discuss Jerusalem with the borders or separate?
Erekat: Its solved. You have the Clinton parameters formula. For the Old City sovereignty for Palestine, except the Jewish quarter and part of the Armenian quarter … the Haram can be left to be discussed — there are creative ways, having a body or a committee, having undertakings, for example not to dig. The only thing I cannot do is convert to Zionism.
Schwartz: To confirm to Senator Mitchell, your private idea …
Erekat: This conversation is in my private capacity.
Schwartz: We’ve heard the idea from others. So you’re not the first to raise it.
Erekat: Others are not the chief negotiator of the PLO.
Schwartz: I meant this gives you cover — that its not you who raised it. So you would separate Jerusalem from the border?
Erekat: No. But we use Clinton parameters — except for the Haram (separate from border).
Hale: So you’re not talking about the border only. You’re talking about Jerusalem, security …
Erekat: Yes. Once we define these, we can move to bilaterals.
Hale: So this is a way of moving from proximity talks to bilaterals.
Erekat: I repeat my message: no bilateral negotiations without a settlement freeze.
Hale: You succeeded in making the point.
Later, on 15 January 2010, Erekat again tells US Envoy George Mitchell’s staff that the Palestinians made unprecedented offers on Jerusalem and other issues during the Annapolis process.
Erekat: Israelis want the two state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised state … What more can I give?