To hear their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, tell the Israelis that the Palestinians are ready to concede “the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history” – even using the Hebrew word for the city – will strike many as an act of humiliation.
Referring to Ariel Sharon as a “friend” will offend those Palestinians who still revile the former prime minister as the “Butcher of Beirut” for his role in the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Telling Tzipi Livni, Israel‘s then foreign minister, on the eve of national elections “I would vote for you” will strike many Palestinians as grovelling of a shameful kind.
It is this tone which will stick in the throat just as much as the substantive concessions on land or, as the Guardian will reveal in coming days, the intimate level of secret co-operation with Israeli security forces or readiness of Palestinian negotiators to give way on the highly charged question of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Of course it should be said that this cache of papers is not exhaustive and may have been leaked selectively; other documents might provide a rather different impression. Nevertheless, these texts will do enormous damage to the standing of the Palestinian Authority and to the Fatah party that leads it. Erekat himself may never recover his credibility.
But something even more profound is at stake: these documents could discredit among Palestinians the very notion of negotiation with Israel and the two-state solution that underpins it.
And yet there might also be an unexpected boost here for the Palestinian cause. Surely international opinion will see concrete proof of how far the Palestinians have been willing to go, ready to move up to and beyond their “red lines”, conceding ground that would once have been unthinkable – none more so than on Jerusalem.
In the blame game that has long attended Middle East diplomacy, this could see a shift in the Palestinians’ favour.
The effect of these papers on Israel will be the reverse.
They will cause little trouble inside the country. There are no exposés of hypocrisy or double talk; on the contrary, the Israelis’ statements inside the negotiating room echo what they have consistently said outside it. Livni in particular – now leader of the Israeli opposition – will be heartened that no words are recorded here to suggest she was ever a soft touch.
Still, in the eyes of world opinion that very consistency will look much less admirable. These papers show that the Israelis were intransigent in public – and intransigent in private.
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