It is true that the Palestinians have officially suspended talks with the Israeli government over the establishment of a Palestinian state thanks to Israel’s refusal to stop the colonization of Palestinian land. So it is no surprise that Palestinian President Abbas and Israeli PM Netanyahu have not had any lunch dates recently. However, there are undoubtedly several secret channels of communication between the two as well as direct contact between the US and the PA as well as Israel and the US. Presumably, if one side floated a serious offer or idea, the other would hear about it sooner, rather than later.
It is with this assumption that I was surprised to read an article in Haaretz today calling for a long term, 40-99 year lease of parts of Palestinian East Jerusalem in exchange for an independent state. What surprised me was not the American proposal itself – absurd, perhaps, as it simply allows Israel to continue its Judaeization of the city for another century – but rather what was shocking was that the Palestinian negotiating team seemed to have been told about the proposal right before the media. My emphasis:
Israel is conducting secret negotiations with the U.S. on establishing the future borders of a Palestinian state, the London-based Arabic language daily Asharq al-Awsat reported on Friday.
According to the report, Palestinian sources confirmed that the two sides discussed an option wherein Israel may lease lands in East Jerusalem from the Palestinians in exchange for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
The Palestinian Authority apparently has only recently been made aware of the talks and hasn’t been given the details of the proposal.
An Egyptian source told the newspaper that the negotiations are “more quiet than secret, and are meant to try to save the peace process.”
[tweetmeme] So Israel is negotiating occupied Palestinian rights and land with the United States. The American and Israeli governments saw it fit to tell Egypt about the proposal, but not Palestine. It is hardly surprising that Israel is trying to negotiate with the US, but with an issue as immensely controversial as a century long, Hong Kong-type lease of the future capital of the Palestinian state, one would hope that the Palestinians would at least be given the details.
Of course, this whole arrangement would need to be approved by the PA – unlikely considering Abbas, Fayyad et al. are planning to declare independence next year and are considering petitioning the UN for official recognition, all including East Jerusalem as its capital. It is also highly likely that the PA is only claiming not to have the details in order to keep negotiations flowing in the face of continued settlement activity. Considering the emotion and sincerity with which Palestinians view Jerusalem (the PA has recently renovated 15 schools in the city, demonstrating its intent to reclaim the city, angering many right-wing Israelis), I find it hard to believe that Abbas would approve an official concession of the city for a century without incredible Israeli concessions – highly unlikely under the current Israeli government.
I find it much more difficult to believe that the Israeli-American proposal would be viewed favorably after the authors completely excluded the Palestinians in the talks to develop the paper.
Photo from WikiMedia