A highlighted a collection of quotes and key excerpts from the documents themselves to provide a bird’s eye view of the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.

Playing to lose

Telling Tidbits from The Palestine Papers
The recently released “Palestine Papers” reveal the extraordinary lengths to which Palestinian negotiators have gone to reach a peace agreement with Israel. Below, the IMEU has highlighted a collection of quotes and key excerpts from the documents themselves to provide a bird’s eye view of the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations. 


On November 13th 2007, then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made yet another startling remark. She said, “I was the Minister of Justice. I am a lawyer…But I am against law — international law in particular. Law in general. If we want to make the agreement smaller, can we just drop some of these issues? Like international law, this will make the agreements easier.” Read more


Then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni made a few disturbing statements during her conversations with Palestinian negotiators. Livni, according to Al-Jazeera, said Palestinians should, “hope for charity “from [Microsoft founder Bill] Gates and his like.” At another point in time, Livni said, “When you want to curse somebody, you tell [them] ‘go to hell,’ but we shorten it and say, ‘go to Gaza.” Read more


In a 2009 meeting, Saeb Erekat discussed an Israeli settlement freeze with U.S. Middle East adviser David Hale. The conversation is below:

David Hale: We cannot force a sovereign government. We can use persuasion and negotiations and shared interests.

Saeb Erekat: Of course you could if you wanted. How do you think this will reflect on the credibility of the US, if you can’t get this done?

David Hale: We make the call on our own credibility. Read more


In 2009, Mahmoud Abbas pressed the issue of a settlement freeze with President Obama. According to Saeb Erekat, Mahmoud Abbas said, “Are you serious about the two-state solution? If you are, I cannot comprehend that you would allow a single settlement housing unit to be built in the West Bank…you have the choice. You can take the cost free road, applying double standards, which would shoot me and other moderates in the head and make this Bin Laden’s region. Or say we are not against Israel but against Israel’s actions. If you cannot make Israel stop settlements and resume permanent status negotiations, who can?” Read more

In a September 2009 meeting, U.S. Middle East Adviser Dennis Ross met with Saeb Erekat to discuss Israel’s “partial-freeze” on settlements. The discussion is below:

Dennis Ross: The package includes no new tenders, no new confiscation…

Saeb Erekat: I’m not coming from Mars! 40% of the West Bank is already confiscated. They can keep building for years without new tenders. Read more


In October 2009, Palestinian negotiators were surprised that the Obama administration would not honor the Bush administration’s guarantee that “1967″ would be a “baseline” for negotiations. U.S. Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell said, “that difficulties with the Israelis on this and other issues, that they would not agree to any mention of 67 whatsoever.” Read more

In another October 2009 meeting, Erekat attempted to bring up the issue again. The conversation is below:

George Mitchell: Again I tell you that President Obama does not accept prior decisions by Bush. Don’t use this because it can hurt you. Countries are bound by agreements – not discussions or statements.

Saeb Erekat: But this was an agreement with Sec. Rice.

Jonathan Schwartz: It is not legally binding – not an agreement.

Saeb Erekat: For God’s sake, she said to put it on the record. It was the basis for the maps. Read more

In a September 16, 2009 meeting, Erekat had a similar discussion with U.S. Middle East Adviser David Hale. The conversation is below:

Saeb Erekat: Why not resume negotiations from where the parties left off’?

David Hale: We prefer “relaunch” since there was no agreement – nothing is agreed until everything is agreed

Saeb Erekat: There is a detailed record of our negotiations. The US administration kept it – it is perhaps our only achievement with the Bush administration. And so much for Obama and rapprochement…there is not a new word! Give me something at least to save face!

David Hale: There is a lot of new stuff.

Saeb Erekat: If [Barack] Obama cannot stop Netanyahu for 9 months while we negotiate, why would we negotiate ’67 or Jerusalem?

David Hale: But you are in a position to bring peace – this is what distinguished you and your leadership from the others. So yes we need certain principles, and we need something tangible soon. That is the point of New York…something you can deliver. I understand the freeze possible is a little less than what you wanted, but if there is no New York, we lose everything and you have nothing to show for… Read more


In a March 24, 2008 meeting with Palestinian negotiators, then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni discussed the idea of compensation for Palestinian refugees. She said, “Compensating refugees is an international matter and that is why reference to responsibility would be wrong. [The reason for this is] because it was a problem for all Arab states, then it became a Palestinian Israeli conflict, with the Arabs on the sidelines asking for a resolution.”She then added, “What about the people who suffered from terror attacks, are you going to apologize?” To which Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat responded, “We do. We condemn each one.”Livni then said, “People suffer during war. People suffer with their lives. They die. We can relate both of us to the suffering.”

Livni also said, “I feel like we can’t refer to the past.” Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Ahmed Qurei said, “I do not want to go back to the past to become its slave but to pave the way for the future.” Read more


In a June 21, 2008 meeting Livni said, “By the way on responsibility-whose responsibility is it for keeping them in the camps? The Arab world! Responsibility not just about the war, but what happened after. For creating false hope. [We need to address also] the Jewish refugees. Maybe as part of the international fund.” Erekat responded by saying, “With all due respect – you had an agreement with Egypt. With Jordan. But we never caused anything to the Jews. This will not be in an agreement.” Qurei then said, “All the Arab countries are ready to receive the Jews.” Read more

In a July 16, 2008 meeting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made a point similar to Livni’s: Israel is not alone responsible. The conversation is below:

Condoleezza Rice: If you want to talk about responsibility it is the responsibility of the international community, not Israel. They created Israel.

[Zeinah Salahi (of the PLO’s Negotiation Support Unit) argues that Israeli actions post-statehood are clearly their responsibility. This is dismissed by Rice.]

Saeb Erekat: It is a nation interrupted!

Condoleeza Rice: That is true – a nation’s development is interrupted. You should [look to a solution that describes the conditions and tries to work from there.] Responsibility is a loaded term. [Notes the example of reparations for slavery in the US.] I’ve always objected to it. It’s not forward looking. Would I personally be better off? I don’t know. But I do support affirmative action…[Bad things happen to people all around the world all the time. You need to look forward.]…Israel had to put away some of their aspirations – like taking all of “Judea and Samara.” Read more


In an August 14, 2008 meeting Erekat discussed again discussed responsibility and refugees. He said, “Recognition of responsibility is a bilateral issue. I don’t want the Americans to be involved in this.” Livni’s then legal adviser Tal Becker said, “Our respective narratives cannot be reconciled. You think you are the victims. We think we are the victims.” Read more

UPDATED 3:14 p.m.


In an October 21, 2009 meeting with U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, “Palestinians will need to know that five million refugees will not go back. The number will be agreed as one of the options. Also the number returning to their own state will depend on annual absorption capacity.” Read more

UPDATED 3:06 p.m.


On January 27, 2008, then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni ended a meeting with Palestinian negotiators by saying, “Israel was established to become a national home for Jews from all over the world. The Jew gets the citizenship as soon as he steps in Israel, and therefore don’t say anything about the nature of Israel as I don’t wish to interfere in the nature of your state. The conflict we’re trying to solve is between two peoples. They used to say there were no Palestinian people; my father used to say so too. They used to say Palestinians were Arabs so let them find a solution in an Arab country. The basis for the creation of the state of Israel is that it was created for the Jewish people. Your state will be the answer to all Palestinians including refugees. Putting an end to claims means fulfilling national rights for all.” Read more

UPDATED 2:55 p.m.


In a March 23, 2007 meeting with then Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat discussed refugee voting rights. The discussion is below:

Karel De Gucht: Why haven’t you reformed Fatah? You’ve had 14 months.

Saeb Erekat: No good reason. Abu Mazen wants reform to happen, but he’s being blocked. Reform needs money, and you need to help Fatah more.

Karel De Gucht: For Permanent Status Negotiations, you need a strong Israeli government, need Fatah reform. You need to be more than just president in title.

Saeb Erekat: We’ll take the agreement to referendum. We’re experimenting with the third party role now: EU BAM, Japanese, TIPH.

Karel De Gucht: What about the diaspora?

Saeb Erekat: I never said the diaspora will vote. Its 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.

Karel De Gucht: I don’t think it will go to referendum. I think the only way you can do it is to pass it through Parliament.

Saeb Erekat: I told Sharon before disengagement to do it bilaterally. He said no. I said Hamas will claim victory, like they did in Lebanon. And that’s exactly what’s happened.

Saeb Erekat: Abu Mazen is not a politician. He’s the most decent man. He’ll never call early Palestinian Leadership Council elections without also calling presidential elections.

Karel De Gucht: That may be his weakness.

Saeb Erekat: He’s also tough and smart. Read more

UPDATED 2:06 p.m.


On June 21, 2008, then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, along with then adviser to then Israeli President Ehud Olmert and Livni’s legal adviser Tal Becker, met with former Palestinian Foreign Minister Ahmed Qurei, and Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekeat. In the meeting, Livni proposed swapping “Israeli-Arab” villages to a future Palestinian state. The discussion is below:

Tzipi Livni: Two issues related to the borders. When you talk about the line of 1967, there were some Palestinian villages separated by 1967. I visited an Israeli Palestinian village on Friday in Wadi Ara.

Ahmed Qurei: What were you doing there? Campaigning?

Tzipi Livni: There are 12,000 Palestinian members of Kadima.

Udi Dekel: Israeli Arabs. I said from the beginning that it can be part of the swaps.

Ahmed Qurei: Absolutely not.

Tzipi Livni: We have this problem with Raja [Ghajar] in Lebanon. Terje Larsen put the blue line to cut the village in two. [This needs to be addressed.] We decided not to cut the village. It was a mistake. The problem now, those living on Lebanese soil are Israeli citizens.

Udi Dekel: Barka, Barta il Sharqiya, Barta il [Garbiya], Betil, Beit Safafa

Ahmed Qurei: This will be difficult. All Arabs in Israel will be against us.

Tal Becker: We will need to address it somehow. Divided. All Palestinian. All Israeli. Read more

On April 8, 2008, Livni (two months prior to the above discussion) Livni discussed the villages. She said, “Let us be fair. You referred to 1967 line. We have not talked about Jerusalem yet. There are some Palestinian villages that are located on both sides of the 1967 line about which we need to have an answer, such as Beit Safafa, Barta’a, Baqa al-Sharqiyeh and Baqa al-Gharbiyyeh.” Read more

January 23, 2010


In late 2007, former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told former Palestinian Foreign Minister Ahmed Qurei, “Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible.” She added, “the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it had been “the policy of the government for a really long time.” At the end of 2007 she said, “it is still the policy of some of the parties but not the government.”Read more


Saeb Erekat said to Israeli negotiators on May 4th 2008, “We are building for you the largest Jerusalem in history.” Erekat was referring to these maps of proposed area swaps:

Then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni responded to the Palestinian negotiating team’s area swap suggestions by saying, “I want to say that we do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands, and probably it was not easy for you to think about it but I really appreciate it. I think we have a reason to continue.” Read more

Saeb Erekat said, “In Jerusalem it was hard for us but we decided to give you.” Read more


On May 29, 2008, Udi Dekel told Palestinian negotiator Samih al-Abed, “I do not have permission to discuss Jerusalem without knowing what arrangements will be in Jerusalem.” Read more

In the same May 29, 2008 meeting, Dekel told Abed, “Since 2000, something happened in those 8 years so we are not at the same starting point. You started a terror war on us and we created facts on the ground. This is the reality that we live in today, so we can’t go back to Camp David. Circumstances changed considerably since then. Facts have changed. So we can’t freeze time and consider that we are in 2000 reality. The Middle East has changed.” Read more


In a June 15th 2008 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, former Palestinian Foreign Minister Ahmed Qurei, and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Ahmed Qurei explained the Palestinian proposition for Jerusalem by saying, “This last proposition could help in the swap process. We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa). This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David.” Read more

Livni responded, “When we decided on the annexation, we made it clear to the Palestinians that we will not compensate them with land that is part of Israel now. The issue now is that the Palestinians will not accept that some locations become part of Israel.” Read more

Saeb Erekat said the Palestinians were willing to give up, “Zakhron Ya’cov, the French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Ramot Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, Tal Piot, and the Jewish Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem.” Read more

Ahmed Qurei proposed the idea that the Palestinian state could include Jewish settlements. He said, “Perhaps Ma’ale Adumim will remain under Palestinian sovereignty and it could be a model for cooperation and coexistence. We may also have international forces and make security arrangements for some time. It is the location of Ma’ale Adumim not its size.” Then Foreign Minister Livni responded by saying, ” Future borders will be complicated but clear. I have seen in Yugoslavia how areas can be connected. The matter is not simply giving a passport to settlers.” Read more


In a July 2, 2008 meeting, Israeli adviser Udi Dekel did not want to discuss Jerusalem. He said, “Why does your side keep mentioning Jerusalem in every meeting – isn’t there an understanding on this between the leaders?” Read more


Later, in an October 21, 2009 meeting with U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, Mitchell’s Deputy David Hales, and then State Department legal adviser Jonathan Schwartz, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat devised a way to divide Jerusalem. He said, “Even the Old City can be worked out except for the Haram and what they call Temple Mount. There you need the creativity of people like me…” Read more

Erekat added, “It’s 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 [excavations under the Al Aqsa mosque]. The only thing I cannot do is convert to Zionism.” Read more

Jonathan Schwartz responded, “To confirm to Sen. Mitchell, [this is] your private idea.

To which Erekat said, “This conversation is in my private capacity.”

Schwartz then said, “We’ve heard the idea from others. So you’re not the first to raise it.”

Erekat said, “Others are not the chief negotiator of the PLO.” Read more


In an August 31, 2008 meeting, the issue of Haram Al-Sharif was to, “continue to be negotiated bilaterally between Israel and Palestine with the involvement of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, but without the ability of these third parties to force an agreement on the parties.” Read more

The Israelis offered their package to the Palestinians which included, “Israel would annex 6.8% of the West Bank, including the four main settlement “blocs” of Gush ‘Etzion (with Efrata), Ma’ale Adumim, Giv’at Ze’ev and Ariel), as well as all of the settlements in East Jerusalem (with Har Homa), in exchange for the equivalent of 5.5% from Israeli territory.” On refugees, Israel said, “Not clear what the heads of damage for compensation would be, just that there would be no acknowledgement of responsibility for the refugees, and that compensation, and not restitution or return (apart from the 5,000), would be the only remedy.” Read more


In 2009, Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, told U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, “The Palestinians know they will have a country with limitations,” he told Mitchell. “They won’t have an army, air force or navy.”Read more


Saeb Erekat later said in a January 2010 meeting with U.S. President Obama’s adviser David Hale, “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?” Read more


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