The other side of the PA and Mubarak’s detachment from their peoples’ demands
The Palestine Papers, a cache of around 1600 documents on diplomatic peace negotiations published by Al-Jazeera and the Guardian constitute a real blow to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority’s (PA) claim it “won’t sell out.” The damage these documents have caused to the PA’s image is by no means less than the damage they have caused to the people they constantly claimed to represent. The majority of the Palestinians in Gaza had already lost faith in the US-backed authority, and what remained of this faith will melt away after the full publication of these documents.
Meanwhile in Egypt, the ongoing mass demonstrations constitute a parallel fatal blow to the already shattered image of the (US-backed) Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.
While the Palestine Papers caused disappointment and wrath amongst all Palestinians in the West Bank, inside Israel and worldwide, the Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip were in a state of shock as well, yet for an entirely different reason: the PA’s humiliating compliance to the Israeli demands compared to its arrogant intransigence in face of any reconciliation with the Hamas government in Gaza.
In addition to the concessions the PA offers on a number of permanent status issues, primarily, settlements, borders, Jerusalem, refugees and the openly conducted security collaboration with Israel, for the Palestinians in Gaza, the Palestine Papers most importantly reveal a great deal about the yielding nature of the Palestinian negotiators and the jaw-dropping friendly atmosphere surrounding them.
It is not necessarily compliant the position of the PA in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, one would suggest, insofar as they haven’t agreed on anything (which PA figures keep parroting, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”) and it is of the essence of the negotiations process that you offer something in exchange for another, else we should not be negotiating in the first place, which is quite plausible. So such concessions, though unprecedented and totally unacceptable, up to a point can be justified. However, unfortunately for them, it is but this logic that already delegitimized the PA in the Palestinians’ eyes.
Such logic has in fact had a backfire function on the sophistic PA officials, namely the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat. As the continually failing reconciliatory talks between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA have proved over the past four years, the give-and-take logic is obviously not the case all the time, depending on who is on the other side of the table. And so failing to bridge the division amongst the Palestinians due to the firmness of each side’s position, the population continues to daily pay the price for this willing failure.
Before the Palestine Papers came out, it had always been hard for me to imagine the atmosphere inside the negotiations room which turned out to be something very unlike what I thought: a playful and full-of-jubilation atmosphere (at least on the PA’s side). As Laila Al-Aria from Al-Jazeera reports, “On June 30, 2008, as Livni was gearing up to run in the Kadima party’s leadership election, Qurei ]then senior Palestinian negotiator[ said fawningly, “I would vote for you.” A few months before that Qurei had similarly sweet words for Rice, telling her, “You bring back life to the region when you come.” I believe it would be hard to imagine such a high-spirited ambiance during the Hamas-Fatah reconciliatory talks that a Fatah official would pay a similar compliment to his Hamas counterpart.