- Created: Tuesday, 15 February 2011 13:51
- Written by Bob Shepherd
The publication of over 1,600 secret documents leaked to Al Jazeera which cover peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine in the period between 1999 and 2010 shatter any illusions that Israel will ever agree to a two-state solution. Bob Shepherd reports on how the documents expose the spineless and cowardly nature of the PLO/Fatah negotiators who have gone to almost any length to appease Israel.
No matter how much the Palestinian leaders conceded, it has never been enough for Israel or for its imperialist backers. In fact the various peace talks are shown to have been little more than an exercise by imperialism to develop and foster a pliant pro-imperialist Palestinian leadership committed only to building a police state to suppress Palestinian resistance. For the Zionists such negotiations could be strung out as long as possible to make a two-state solution utterly impossible. Their arrogance is breathtaking: even after the publication of the documents the Israeli deputy prime minister Moshe Ya’alon felt able to declare: ‘We’re fed up with giving and giving and giving, and not getting any real substance [in return].’
According to the leaked documents, the PLO/Fatah negotiators, led by Ahmed Qureia and Saeb Erekat, were willing to allow Israel to annex all Zionist settlements in East Jerusalem bar one, Har Homa. Erekat declared in June 2008: ‘It’s no secret…we are offering you the biggest Yerushalayim in history’. Israeli representatives contemptuously rejected the offer because as their lead negotiator, then foreign secretary Tzipi Livni, put it, ‘We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands…but I really appreciate it’.
Israel was secure in rejecting this craven offer from the PLO/Fatah because it knew it had the full backing of the US. Condoleezza Rice, then US Secretary of State, said in July 2008 that if the Palestinians insisted Israel could not keep the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel in the West Bank, ‘you won’t have a state’. She added that no Israeli leader could accept a deal ‘without including them in an Israeli state’. At one point she suggested that Palestinian refugees could be resettled in South America, possibly in Chile or Argentina. At every stage the US was negotiating on behalf of Israel.
Livni, regarded as being on the liberal wing of Zionism, declared at one meeting in 2007 that ‘the policy of the government for a really long time…is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible [for a Palestinian state], we already have the land and we cannot create the state’. The Kadima government, of which she was the deputy leader, was telling the world quite the opposite!
The right of return for Palestinian refugees, a historic demand of the Palestinian national movement, was another principle the PLO/Fatah negotiators gave away. Erekat declared that it was ‘a bargaining chip’ with Palestinian negotiators eventually agreeing to the return of a token number of 10,000 refugees out of a total of around five million over a ten-year period. Abbas is minuted as saying ‘it is illogical to ask Israel to take five million, or indeed one million…that would mean the end of Israel’. Livni was opposed to any Palestinian refugee returning and repeatedly pressed in 2007-08 for the ‘transfer’ of some of Israel's own Arab citizens into a future Palestinian state as part of a land-swap deal that would exchange Palestinian villages now in Israel for Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
In 2008, discussing the opening of border crossings into Gaza, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad complained to Tony Blair, then the peace envoy of the Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia, that: ‘If Hamas is seen as having succeeded in opening them then the message will be that rockets yield results’.
Later, in 2009, Erekat told Mitchell that the tunnels from Egypt to Gaza were still functioning. Referring to the border he said, ‘11 kilometres! What’s going on with you and the US, the $23m [given by the US to block the tunnels]…? It’s business as usual in the tunnels, the Hamas economy.’ The documents also expose Palestinian Authority (PA) cooperation with the US in attempting to postpone discussion of the Goldstone Report into Israeli war crimes in Gaza at the UN despite public denials at the time. Erekat is minuted as telling the US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, ‘on going to the UN [with the Report] we will always co-ordinate with you’.
The leaked documents show how the British Labour government played a central role in building up the repressive forces of the PA. MI6 drew up plans for a clampdown on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other resistance forces, proposing internment without trial of leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the creation of a new security taskforce that would be outside the control of traditional security chiefs with ‘direct lines to Israeli Intelligence’. In 2005 Britain was funding the General Intelligence Service, Special Forces and Preventive Security arms of the PA security forces. In 2008 Human Rights Watch reported that both the General Intelligence Service and Preventive Security force were engaged in the unlawful arrests and torture of Hamas activists. The PA’s security forces now openly collaborate with Israel and are routinely accused of detention without trial and torture. Erekat proudly told a US official in 2009, ‘we have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law…we have even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law’.
There can be no doubt now about Zionist intentions or the true character of the PLO/Fatah and the PA. Israel will never accept a two-state solution: it will not allow the establishment of any form of Palestinian entity. With complete imperialist support it will continue to establish ‘facts on the ground’ whilst relying on the PA to suppress all opposition. The PA itself will do anything to re-establish control over the people of Gaza even if it means condoning their starvation. Yet there is a chill wind blowing for these traitors: the uprisings and demonstrations in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt show that their days will be numbered.
Settlement expansion accelerates
Given the spinelessness of the PA, it is no surprise that Israel has been able to continue its settlement construction in East Jerusalem with impunity. A new report, The Jerusalem Report 2010 Annex 1 and 2,* from the European Union Heads of Missions in Ramallah and Jerusalem to the European Parliament in Brussels, speaks of ‘the systematic undermining of the Palestinian presence’ in East Jerusalem, or in plain language, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The report highlights in its opening paragraphs what the realities of life are like for Palestinians in East Jerusalem and points to the open agenda of Israel which is to force Palestinians out of the city:
‘The continued expansion of settlements, restrictive zoning and planning, ongoing demolitions and evictions, an inequitable education policy, difficult access to health care, the inadequate provision of resources and investment and the precarious residency issue have not only serious humanitarian consequences, they undermine the Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem.’
The report also explains Israel’s overall strategy concerning Jerusalem:
‘Successive Israeli governments have pursued a policy of transferring Jewish population into the occupied Palestinian territory in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international humanitarian law. In East Jerusalem 35% of the land has been expropriated for “state land”. Only citizens of Israel or those legally entitled to claim Israeli citizenship (ie Jewish) can buy property built on state land. As a consequence, out of a total of more than 500,000 settlers in occupied Palestinian land some 190,000 Israeli settlers today live in settlements inside East Jerusalem. Between 2001 and 2009, 37% of all settlement housing units in the occupied Palestinian territory were located in East Jerusalem.’
The Report documents continuous settlement expansion. From 10 November 2010: ‘Four new town plan schemes (the first since March) have been approved for public review, altogether for 1,275 new housing units in the settlements Ramot and Har Homa and 625 in Pisgat Ze’ev.’ On 16 January at least 1,400 homes will be authorised for Gilo. The Report states that at least 32% of all Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem do not have the necessary building permits, putting a potential 80,000 people under threat as such buildings are considered to be illegal by the Zionist authorities and are liable to demolition. According to the report, although Palestinians make up about 30% of the population of the city, only 10% of the Municipal budget is spent in Palestinian areas. This means that Palestinian areas are run down, with bad roads and poor sewage systems. 75.3% of Palestinian adults and 83.1% of Palestinian children live below the poverty line, and over 95,000 Palestinian children in East Jerusalem live in permanent poverty.
Apartheid Wall approaches completion
The Israeli army announced in mid-January that the Apartheid Wall around Jerusalem should be completed by the end of 2011. The Report states that of about 168km of the Wall already built around Jerusalem, only 3% is built on the 1967 Green Line, the rest is inside the West Bank. The racist apartheid nature of the Wall is highlighted by the situation of Al Walaja village which will be completely surrounded by the Wall with access only by a tunnel!
There has been an ongoing popular campaign against the construction of the Apartheid Wall in villages and communities along its route in the West Bank, a movement which Israel is attacking and attempting to suppress in ever more violent ways. In the village of Bil’in, the regular Friday demonstration against the Wall on 31 December 2010 was attacked by the Israeli army firing tear gas. Jawaher Ibrahim Abu Rahmeh, age 34, was overcome by the toxic gas and died in hospital the next day. She became the first Palestinian martyr of 2011. Her brother, Bassem Abu Rahmeh, had been killed in a similar manner protesting against the Wall on 17 April 2009 when he was shot with a tear gas canister point blank at his chest.
Siege of Gaza unending
The siege of Gaza continues, a report produced by the Palestinian Centre of Human Rights, shows that the unemployment rate is 50% with four out of five families dependent on food aid. 95% of all industrial establishments are closed and according to UN statistics poverty levels in the Gaza Strip are amongst the highest in the world. Today more than 1.1m people, approximately 75% of Gaza’s population, lack food security. The UN Special Rapporteur declared that the Israeli blockade has restricted ‘the flows of food to sub subsistence levels’.
Fatah opposes Tunisia uprising
As Palestinian resistance forces joined with progressive organisations across the world in expressing solidarity with the uprisings of the Egyptian and Tunisian people, the PA did quite the opposite. Mahmoud Abbas phoned to offer his support to Tunisia’s Ben Ali hours before he fled to Saudi Arabia. He also telephoned Egyptian President Mubarak on 29 January. The PA refused to issue a permit for a demonstration in Ramallah on 19 January in support of the revolt in Tunisia, and then broke it up when it took place anyway. It subsequently banned demonstrations in support of the uprising in Egypt. Mubarak’s support for the PA is crucial for its survival.
FRFI 219 February / March 2011