Leaked documents: who was serious about a deal to end the conflict?

Disclosure of Palestine Papers rebut Israeli claims that there is ‘no partner for peace’


| World news | guardian.co.uk | Jan 24, 2011

Ariel settlement in the West Bank A construction site in Ariel, a West Bank settlement that Palestinina negotiators refused to concede. Photograph: Uriel Sinai/Getty ImagesThe Palestine Papers – the cache of documents from Israel-Palestine peace negotiations over the past decade which the Guardian is revealing this week – makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in both the history and the future of this place.

Many Palestinians will be shocked at how much their negotiators were prepared to offer to reach a deal in 2008 – on settlements and on the right of return of refugees.

But there’s another side of this coin too – the documents also show the Palestinians were serious about negotiating, and were willing to make big and painful concessions for peace and to secure their dream of a state.

From the papers I’ve read, there is little evidence of the Israelis matching this approach by making serious and painful concessions of their own. Indeed Tzipi Livni is fairly dismissive of the offer on East Jerusalem settlements, focussing on what the Palestinians would not agree to, rather than acknowledging the magnitude of what they were prepared to concede.

Among the settlement blocs that the Palestinians were not willing to give up were Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim.

Ariel, the long finger-like settlement which stretches far into the West Bank, almost cutting it in two, has long been in contention. The Israelis insist they must keep it – it’s home to 20,000 people; the Palestinians argue that it makes a contiguous state pretty much impossible. They also point out in the talks that Ariel sits on (and blocks their access to) a major aquifer, which they need for water – a rarely talked-about final status issue.

But it has long been assumed – at least among the Israelis – that Ma’ale Adumim (population: 35,000), the huge city east of Jerusalem stretching towards Jericho, part of the ring of settlements which cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank, will be on the Israeli side of any future border. The Palestinians’ unexpected refusal to give it up shows some mettle.

Of course, we don’t know if this was a negotiating position, and whether Ma’ale Adumim would have been a card to play closer to a deal.

But it seems to me that after the disclosure of these papers, it will be very hard indeed for the Israelis to deploy their standard argument that the Palestinians are not serious about negotiating a deal and that they have no “partner for peace”.

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Leaked documents: who was serious about a deal to end the conflict? | World news | guardian.co.uk.

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