It didn’t take Al-Jazeera long to come up with a local alternative to Wikileaks. Their incendiary release of a small part of the 16,076 documents pertaining to the peace process between the Arabs and Israelis has sent shockwaves in some circles, while others remain calamitously calm. While the named party in the talks seemed to have gone into deep denial, Hamas – rightly, if the documents are to be believed – said the ubiquitous “I told you so.”
In essence, the negotiating Palestinian side has practically given Palestine to the Israelis for nothing more than a paternalistic pat on the head, but even that wasn’t forthcoming. The “gesture” of those offered deep concessions were summarily rejected, further amply demonstrating the weakness of the Arab’s position; the BBC reports that:
The Palestinians are reported to have proposed an international committee to take over Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, and limiting the number of returning refugees to 100,000 over 10 years.[…]
Among the leaked papers, the alleged offers relating to East Jerusalem are the most controversial, as the issue has been a huge stumbling block in Mid-East talks and both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital.[…]
According to al-Jazeera, in May 2008 Ahmed Qurei, the lead Palestinian negotiator at the time, proposed that Israel annex all Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem except Har Homa (Jabal Abu Ghneim), in a bid to reach a final deal.
“This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition,” he reportedly said, pointing out that this was a bigger concession than that made at Camp David talks in 2000.
“We are offering you the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history,” negotiator Saeb Erekat was quoted as saying, using the Hebrew word for Jerusalem.
Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leaders also privately suggested swapping part of the flashpoint East Jerusalem Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land elsewhere, according to the leaks.
In addition, Palestinian negotiators are said to have proposed an international committee to take over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which houses the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque – Islam’s third holiest site.
And they were reported to be willing to discuss limiting the number of Palestinian refugees returning to 100,000 over 10 years.
The leaks also purport to show that Palestinian leaders had been “privately tipped off” about Israel’s 2008-2009 war in Gaza, a claim Mr Abbas has denied in the past.
So now we know. Or at least have a better idea of what goes on behind closed doors, and this forced transparency should also force those who are trusted to be in power to behave with the best interest of their people in mind, or else, they too shall be booted out just like ben Ali and his ilk.
I long to see the day when “reports” are published whose only content is “official A met with official B and discussed issues of mutual concern” and the official media channels would actually report on the content, before, that is, those meetings too become public knowledge through Wikileaks, Aljazeera Transparency Unit or the many other copycats which surely will come about aplenty.
Ironically, transparency actually serves to make officials better professionally and personally.