News agency Al-Jazeera has published thousands of confidential documents concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East, providing an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at peace negotiations between US, Israel and Palestine.
The leak includes nearly 1700 files including thousands of pages of diplomatic correspence, as well as memos, emails, maps and minutes of closed meetings between 1999-2010.
According to Al-Jazeera, the revelations include the surprising willingness of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to concede settlements to Israel in East Jerusalem, compromises made by the PA regarding the return of refugees, and details of security co-operation with Israel.
The leaks have already led to widespread condemnation of the PA across Palestine, after it was revealed that its negotiators privately conceded Israel’s definition of itself as a Jewish state while refusing to recognise Israel’s existence in public, and offering Israel “the biggest Jerusalem in history” – an offer which was rejected.
The leaks further reveal that Palestinian negotiators had agreed to Israeli demands that only 10,000 refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, out of a total refugee population of 5 million.
Al-Jazeera and the UK’s Guardian newspaper, which was also granted access to the leaked documents, described the overall impression of the decade of leaks as revealing “the weakness and growing desperation of PA leaders as failure to reach agreement or even halt all settlement temporarily undermines their credibility in relation to their Hamas rivals.”
The Guardian contends that the leak also reveals “the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators and the often dismissive attitude of US politicians towards Palestinian representatives” – at one stage former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice suggests that Palestinians could live in Latin America, and in the minutes of a meeting with Palestinian negotiators in 2009, Rice’s successor Hillary Clinton is heard to ponder why Palestinians were “always in a chapter of a Greek tragedy”.
Palestinian authorities have responded to the leaks by attacking al-Jazeera for “distorting the truth” and playing “a propaganda game through the media in order to brainwash Palestinian citizens”.
Chief negotiator Saeb Muhammad Salih Erekat has dismissed the minutes were “a bunch of lies and half truths”, while angry protesters stormed al-Jazeera’s offices in Ramallah before being stopped by police.