The recent ‘Palestine papers’ leaks have ensured that even if the current caretaker Palestinian government does not collapse as a result of their revelations, it will now be exceedingly difficult to resume the much-needed peace negotiations.
From the media commentary surrounding the leaks, it is also perfectly obvious that such a situation is far from undesirable for some, and in particular Hamas, which rejected and did its best to sabotage the latest round of discussions. The rejectionist stance, as taken by Hamas, was expressed by its representative Osama Hamdan in a recent op-ed in the Guardian.
“The Palestinian negotiators named and quoted in these documents have betrayed their people and the Palestinian cause. We are in no doubt that, as a result of these revelations, they have lost their credibility for good. It is unthinkable that the Palestinian people will ever approve any deal concluded with the Israelis by this team of negotiators, for they will always be suspected of selling out and of betraying the cause. The Palestinian people can never believe that what these individuals pledge in public reflects how they bargain or deal in private.”
However, the following quote dated September 2010 – four months prior to the ‘Palestine papers’ revelations and close to the commencement of the recent talks – does not come from a Hamas website.
Many commentators expect the direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians to fail. But there is a much worse scenario: What if they “succeed?”
These are the words of a California-based think tank known as Al Shabaka or the Palestinian Policy Network, or alternatively the Middle East Policy Network, which was established in April 2010 and engages in writing ‘policy briefs’ with the aim of ‘strategy development’ which in some cases is clearly designed to circumvent the Palestinian National Authority.
“Instead, next year is likely to see a grand ceremony where Palestinian leaders will sign away the right of return and other Palestinian rights in an agreement that would change little on the ground. The plan of the PA’s appointed prime minister, Salam Fayyad, to declare a Palestinian state in 2011 could unwittingly contribute to this outcome by providing the appearance of an “end of conflict” while the reality remains unchanged. If the rest of the world sees that the government of “Palestine” is satisfied with international recognition and a U.N. seat, they will be happy to move on to other problems leaving the Palestinians at Israel’s mercy.”
Al Shabaka boasts within its ranks many Palestinian academics and activists (a considerable number of whom are based abroad) including the leader of the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ movement Omar Barghouti, ‘electronic Intifada’ founder and member of Al Awda Ali Abunimah, Anis Kassim who helped present the Palestinian side in the 2004 ICJ ruling on Israel’s anti-terrorist fence, and Ameer Makhoul who was recently sentenced to nine years in prison for spying for Hizbollah.
Currently, Al Shabaka members are engaged in two main fields of action. One is trying to discredit the Palestinian Authority in the wake of the ‘Palestinian papers’ leaks and their op-eds have appeared in a variety of media outlets. Co-director Nadia Hijab recently wrote that
“The leaks have let the sunshine in. They confirm what most Palestinians already feared, that a major sell-out of their rights, including the right to return and Jerusalem, was planned.”
The other focus is engagement in lobbying the US government to give up its veto in the UN Security Council on the subject of the pending resolution to pronounce Israeli towns and villages beyond the ‘Green Line’ illegal. This is part of a wider strategy to replace face to face negotiations with UN centered ‘lawfare’, as laid out in an article by Al Shabaka member Mouin Rabbani, formerly of Al Haq.
“Here, going to the Security Council to reconfirm the illegality of settlement in and annexation of occupied territory could prove pivotal. It would be extremely difficult for the U.S. to veto, and virtually impossible for European governments to ignore. Such a resolution could help generate a new wave of demands for action in European parliaments, particularly if paired with a Palestinian campaign of mass protests and diplomatic activity to translate the resolution, the ICJ opinion on the West Bank Wall and Goldstone Report into practical consequences.”
At what would logically appear to be the other end of the spectrum, another lobbying organisation is also campaigning for the US to abandon its right of veto at the UNSC. J Street, which describes itself as ‘pro-Israel, pro-peace’ and yet recently stated:
“While we hope never to see the state of Israel publicly taken to task by the United Nations, we cannot support a U.S. veto of a Resolution that closely tracks long-standing American policy and that appropriately condemns Israeli settlement policy.”