Middle East News
Erekat calls latest leaks "selective and seditious" (2nd Roundup)
Jan 25, 2011, 15:26 GMT
Ramallah - The Palestinian Authority faced more pressure Tuesday, as al-Jazeera published further alleged minutes of sensitive meetings on negotiations with Israel - with a top official involved in the talks calling the leaks 'selective' and 'seditious.'
The latest leaks show Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his chief negotiator Saeb Erekat as acknowledging that Israel would be able to absorb only a negligible number of the nearly 4.8 million registered Palestinian refugees living in United Nations camps in neighbouring Arab countries, the West Bank and Gaza.
Demanding it absorb millions was 'illogical' because it would mean 'the end of Israel.'
An under-attack Abbas charged the documents were 'forged and changed.'
'We have nothing to hide,' he told thousands of chanting supporters welcoming him at his Ramallah headquarters on his return from Egypt, 'and we challenge anyone to show us one document we have not shown to the Arabs and the leadership here.'
Speaking on Palestinian radio and television, a defensive and angry Erekat denied charges by hardliners that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had 'sold short' the refugees.
He accused the Qatari satellite station of presenting the documents in an 'inciting,' 'selective,' 'shameful' and 'seditious' manner, in a bid to destroy the PA.
Erekat told Palestine Television that the documents were stolen from the computers of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department.
If authentic and accurate, the documents show that, during negotiations held between the previous Israeli government of Ehud Olmert and the PA in the wake of the November 2007 Annapolis peace summit, the Israelis suggested that certain Arab-Israeli villages bordering the West Bank become part of the Palestinian state.
According to the minutes of a June 2008 negotiating session in Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel, Israeli representative Udi Dekel listed a number of Palestinian villages cut into two by the armistice line that separates Israel from the occupied territory.
He suggested the villages be included in a land swap which would enable Israel, in turn, to keep its main settlement blocs in the West Bank. 'Absolutely not,' purported former Palestinian premier Ahmed Qureia, worried it would turn Israel's Arab citizens against the PA.
The idea of handing Arab villages in Israel to Palestinian control is seen as controversial. Many Arab Israelis say they are opposed and prefer to remain part of Israel, citing a stronger economy, job opportunities and political freedoms as the reasons.
The minutes do not show former foreign minister Livni or Dekel suggesting a forced, involuntary transfer to Palestinian sovereignty and citizenship.
As for the highly sensitive issue of refugees, the Palestine Papers quote Erekat as telling US envoy George Mitchell in February 2009 that 'on refugees, the deal is there.'
The Palestinian negotiator reportedly made that comment after former Israeli premier Ehud Olmert offered that Israel absorb 10,000 refugees over a period of 10 years.
The German Press Agency dpa could not find a reference to that specific numbers in the original material made available online by the Qatari channel.
Abbas is also quoted as saying in a March 2009 meeting that 'on numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million. That would mean the end of Israel.'
Minutes of a March 2007 parley with Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht quote Erekat as saying Palestinians living outside the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem would not be able to vote in a referendum on a peace deal, because that would be unfeasible.
Al-Jazeera on Monday night aired the second series of the 1,684 classified documents it says it obtained from an unnamed source. It plans to release more over the next two days.
Washington said late Monday the leak would complicate the peace process in the short-term, but not thwart efforts to reach a deal.
'We don't deny that this release will at least for a time make the situation more difficult than it already was,' US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said. 'But, again, we are clear-eyed about this. We always recognize that this would be a great challenge. But it doesn't change our overall objective.'
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