Palestine Papers: Day Two

Did the PA abandon Palestinian refugees?

[tweetmeme] Last night Al Jazeera released the second batch of leaked documents concerning Israel and Palestine. While the first batch dealt with land concessions – including Jerusalem and Haram al-Sharif, the second concerned Palestinian refugees and their fate under different agreements. The first dose of leaked documents created quite a stir across the globe and the second will likely do the same. Yesterday’s news mainly concerned the PA putting up a line of defense against domestic opponents, namely Hamas. Today will undoubtedly bring an increasingly beleaguered PA doing its best to shield against international (and diasporic) criticism as the batch of documents revealed last night unveil a PA that was willing to seriously compromise on the right of return. The main points of the most recent releases:

  • Despite the recent refusal of PA officials to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, documents show that Palestinian leaders (in pre-Netanyahu) 2007 offered to give such recognition to Tzipi Livni. Such recognition would effectively endanger the existence of Palestinian Israelis while canceling any chance of the right of return for the existing refugees;
  • Similarly, the PA negotiated away the Right of Return to only 10,000 being able to return (1,000 per year for 10 years), though this was countered by then Israeli PM Ehud Olmert to 5,000. The largely symbolic gesture was rejected by Israel. The Right of Return is an obvious sticking point in negotiations as no Israeli government would accept the (legally guaranteed) return of 6-7 million Palestinians to the state. To this effect, Palestinian chief negotiator Erekat was quoted as saying “The Palestinians need to know that 5 million refugees will not return.” Moreover, and perhaps the statement that will attract the most venom, Erekat said that in any referendum discussing a possible deal with Israel, the international refugees would not receive a vote: “I never said the Diaspora will vote. It’s not going to happen. The referendum will be for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Can’t do it in Lebanon. Can’t do it in Jordan.”
  • The problem of the Right of Return was compounded by the Israeli desire to transfer parts of the Palestinian Israeli population into a newly created Palestinian state. Livni is quoted as pressuring Palestinians to accept transfer of Palestinians on future border to give up Israeli citizenship. The choice became lose your land or lose your citizenship. Back in September, FM Lieberman gave a speech at the UN highlighting a similar population transfer scheme that would move Palestinians against their will. He was largely and widely criticized for making such comments. Released notes show that he (extreme right) was not the only Israeli thinking of such an illegal deal. Livni also has perhaps the best quotation of the releases so far: “I was the minister of justice. I am a lawyer … But I am against law – international law in particular. Law in general.”
  • Condoleezza Rice, then American secretary of state, offered another type of population transfer as a solution to the refugee problem in 2008. For compensation for the refugees, Rice suggested offering land in South America, in Chile or Argentina.
  • In 2008, the Obama administration made it clear that there was no alternative to Abbas and Fayyad as leaders of the Palestinian cause, and based the continuation of US funding on the continuation of Abbas and Fayyad as the head of the PA. After Abbas threatened resignation in 2009, secretary of state Clinton was quoted as saying “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] not running in the election is not an option – there is no alternative to him.” Perhaps it is the US supporting the PA in the death of democracy in Palestine.

Certainly, after a rough day yesterday, the PA could use some time to regroup – though former Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath has apparently confirmed the veracity of reports. It seems like today will be another day full of vitriolic anti-PA comments, though. Ghada Karmi and Amira Howeidy have already started off the day with blistering pieces about the abandonment of the Palestinian refugees. Good luck PA…

Photo from the Guardian

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