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Leaked 'Palestine Papers' Show Bad Faith Negotiating By Israel and U.S.

What's striking about these documents is the degree to which the U.S. pressures the Palestinians, and how much American diplomats are in cahoots with Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Newly released documents show Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to give up large tracts of West Bank land in peace talks with the Israeli government.

The disclosure is among many contained in what’s being called the "Palestine Papers" -- thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel. It’s being described as the biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict. The more than 1,700 files cover a period from 1999 to 2010. They were obtained by the TV news network Al Jazeera, which began publishing details of the documents on Sunday.

Among the leaked papers, the offers relating to East Jerusalem are the most controversial. Minutes from a 2008 meeting indicate Palestinian negotiators offered to allow Israel’s annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem, without receiving any concessions in return.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is quoted as saying, "We are offering you the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history," using the Hebrew word for Jerusalem. But Israel apparently rejected the offer. Then-Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni told the Palestinians, quote, "We do not like this suggestion because it does not meet our demands, and probably it was not easy for you to think about it, but I really appreciate it."

Al Jazeera says forthcoming documents will reveal new details about compromises the Palestinian Authority was prepared to make on refugees and the right of return, as well as on the PA’s security cooperation with Israel and its correspondence on the U.N. inquiry into the late-2008 attack on the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority officials have challenged the documents’ veracity. Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called their contents, quote, "a pack of lies."

For more, I’m joined from the Democracy Now! studios in New York by Rashid Khalidi. He is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, the Department of History, and the author of several books, including Sowing Crisis: American Dominance and the Cold War in the Middle East and Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Khalidi. Can you respond to this trove of documents that Al Jazeera [inaudible] --

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, this was the first of what is supposed to be four days of revelations of documents by Al Jazeera and by the British paper The Guardian. The concentration in the first group seems to have been on Jerusalem. And the revelations are quite striking. The most important, I think, is the degree to which not only Palestinian negotiators were forthcoming, but the degree to which the Israelis were unwilling to accept concessions. It seriously casts into doubt the idea that Israel would accept anything but complete capitulation by the Palestinians to absolutely everything they’re demanding on every front. We’ve heard about Jerusalem. There is presumably more to come.

But another thing that comes out very strikingly from these documents is the degree to which the United States is twisting the arm of the Palestinians, the degree to which American diplomats, whether Hillary Rodham Clinton or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during the previous administration, are unsympathetic to the Palestinians and are in cahoots, in Aaron David Miller’s words, our lawyers for Israel -- it’s actually worse than Miller, who was involved in the negotiations for many years, says, from these documents.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, what about Saeb Erekat saying this is all "a pack of lies"?

RASHID KHALIDI: Well, both Al Jazeera and The Guardian have claimed that they have very carefully investigated the provenance of these documents. I think time will tell. We have -- I have no way of knowing. I think none of us have any way of knowing exactly where they come from. We are told that many of them come from the negotiation support unit. Watching Al Jazeera last night, it was clear to me that they look like they come from within the Palestinian negotiating team, in terms of letterhead and so forth. Whether there could be forgeries among them, nobody knows.

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