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Monday, January 24, 2011

Palestine Papers, day 2: PLO reactions

It is a new day and there are a lot more reactions to the publication of the so-called "Palestine Papers" by Al Jazeera.

I will not go so far as some are to dismiss them as forgeries. There are too many details and too many documents. The Guardian claims that they have been authenticated, and while I am no fan of the Guardian they have incentive to validate them - newspapers do not want to be known to fall for hoaxes like the fake Howard Hughes diaries. The downside for the Guardian is simply too great to think that they did not make a good effort to prove that they are really minutes of meetings from the Palestinian Arab side.

I do believe that the papers reflect the PLO viewpoint of the negotiations, and in many details they might be at odds with the Israeli or American interpretations of those same meetings. We have seen many times that the two sides simply speak different languages.

Another important point to remember is that the PLO knows its own political roadblocks far better than the Israelis or Americans do. While America will push the PLO to make concessions - and the PLO cannot stand up to the US in private the way they proudly do in public - the Arabs know very well that some of the concessions will simply not fly; not for their people and not for the Arab League. They could pretend to put forth supposed peace plans secure in the knowledge that there is no real political way to push them through,and then they can go back to the Americans and say that the "Palestinian street" has tied their hands; they must ask for a few dozen more concessions and put the ball back in Israel's court.

While every Israeli leader across the political spectrum has been relatively honest with the people about the needs for "painful compromises for peace," the PA and PLO never did that. So it is really amusing to see how they are reacting to the release.

Saeb Erekat says that "Al-Jazeera's information is full of distortions and fraud."

Ahmed Qureia, one of the PLO leaders who was involved in the negotiations, said that these were "fabrications" and that Al Jazeera was working for Zionist interests by releasing them.

Qureia is quoted in one of the papers as discussing the Kadima primaries with Tzipi Livni, and telling her "I would vote for you." It can't be good for his career to say nice things to the person who was foreign minister during Operation Cast Lead!

Yasser Abed Rabbo, another member of the PLO Executive Committee, is going further and slamming Qatar (al-Jazeera's home)  for being behind the leaks. He is demanding that the Emir of Qatar come clean on his own contacts with Israel and Iran, and says that Al Jazeera would never have done this without the Emir's pushing them to.

Abed Rabbo's statements, incidentally, indicate that the Palestinian Arab (West Bank) media wouldn't publish anything big without the approval of the PA and PLO!

Finally, one can expect that the leakers will be looking over their shoulders for quite a while, hoping that no bullets are heading their way. They are the ones that had the real agenda, and there are only so many people who should have had access to these documents.

(See also Noah Pollak's analysis. Also in Commentary, a good piece by Emanuele Ottolenghi.)