Hamas accuses the Palestinian Authority of working against Palestinian interests.
Jerusalem – Palestinian negotiators offered to give up large areas of East Jerusalem to Israel during negotiations dating back to 2008, the Al-Jazeera network said, suggesting Palestinian leaders have been willing to offer much larger concessions in private than they had previously acknowledged in public, CNN reports.
On Monday a former Israeli government official said an agreement was almost reached during negotiations between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas from the end of 2006 to September 2008.
“After dozens of meetings between Olmert and (Abbas) there was a proposal that was reached … this offer was on all the issues we call core issues,” Yanki Galanti, a former Olmert spokesman, said in an interview Monday with Israeli Army radio. The core issues in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are considered to be the status of Jerusalem, borders and refugees.
The Sunday report by Al-Jazeera was based on a trove of nearly 1,700 internal documents the network said it had obtained. The network did not disclose the source of the material, nor did it say how the documents came into its possession. The papers, some of which were posted on the network’s website, shed new light on the details of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from 1999 through last year. The documents in Al-Jazeera’s report outline meetings between Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. officials in which Palestinian negotiators offered in 2008 to relinquish claims on nearly all of the settlements built in East Jerusalem. The offer was flatly rejected by the Israeli side, according to the posted documents. Israel seized the eastern half of the city following war with its Arab neighbors in 1967 and considers Jerusalem its sovereign capital. This is a claim rejected by the international community that considers Israeli building in East Jerusalem to be illegal. Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital for their future state.
The leaked documents could prove to be politically damaging for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Officials from the Ramallah-based government have consistently condemned growing Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and disclosures that Palestinians officials were willing to make offers that would allow Israeli construction to continue are likely to be seized on by their critics.
The Hamas militant group, which rules the Palestinian territory of Gaza, condemned the Palestinian Authority team, saying it “does not have credibility to negotiate because it offered essential concessions.” The Palestinian Authority rules in the West Bank.
Sami Abu Zhuri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the leaked internal documents about Palestinian concessions on East Jerusalem illustrate the collaboration between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. He accused the Abbas government of working with Israel to put an end to the notion of a Palestinian state.
In one leaked document from 2010, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is quoted as telling a U.S. State Department official, “Israelis want the two-state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than the Palestinians. What is in that paper (that) gives them the biggest (Jerusalem) in Jewish history … what more can I give?”
In addition to details about concessions made on the issue of East Jerusalem, Al-Jazeera reported that Palestinian officials also offered compromise positions on sensitive issues like the right of return of Palestinian refugees and control of the Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the most important sites in Islam.
Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s news agency, quoted President Abbas telling newspaper editors in Cairo Sunday that he did not know where Al-Jazeera got its information and that there was nothing new to report.