Wave of Palestinian anger

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

A MOUNTING wave of anger is sweeping the Palestinian community following the publication of secret documents that show that the Palestinian Authority has been prepared to sell-out millions of refugees to obtain a settlement with Israel.

Al-Jazeera TV has obtained some 1,600 secret documents and records of meetings between the Palestinian Authority and Israeli and American officials over the past ten years exposing what many see as collaboration by the Palestinian Authority. Hamas leaders call it treason and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) says those responsible must be held to account.

The leaked documents reveal that the Mahmoud Abbas leadership, which runs the “autonomous” Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, was prepared to accept the permanent Israeli occupation of most of Arab East Jerusalem and allow Israel to retain most of its settlements in the West Bank in exchange for marginal land on the Israeli side of the old ceasefire line.

They reveal that their Palestinian negotiators were prepared to renounce the right of return of the Palestinian refugees expelled by the Zionists in 1948/49, during the first Arab-Israeli war, in return for a deal to allow just 100,000 back into Israel. This was first proposed by Israel in the early 1950s and has always remained on the table.

Other papers show the extent that the Palestinian Authority has co-operated with Israeli intelligence to the extent of arresting Palestinian militants and even considering the assassination of at least one resistance fighter from a rival Palestinian group.

When Al Jazeera broke the news this week it was dismissed as “a pack of lies” by the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat.

Now he admits that at least some of the data in true and says Al Jazeera has put his life in danger by publishing the documents.

The papers show that the seemingly endless rounds of futile talks between the Israelis and the pro-Western Abbas leadership have revolved around the “Barak Plan” tabled by the then Israeli premier at the Camp David talks with Yasser Arafat in 2000. It appears that the principle of swapping West Bank land for Israeli land to allow the Zionists to retain key urban settlements in what they call “Greater Jerusalem” was accepted by the Palestinians but the talks broke down because the Israelis would make no serious concessions on the rights of the refugees.

Now it seems that the post-Arafat Abbas leadership is prepared for peace at any price. Why the Israelis haven’t taken it remains a mystery though many suspect that they’ve been waiting for Abbas to re-assert his authority over the Gaza Strip first. Gaza’s been run by Hamas, the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, since 2007 after their all-Palestinian government was dissolved by Abbas with the encouragement of Anglo-American imperialism.

Hamas’ support in the Gaza Strip has remained solid and the Muslim Brothers have substantial underground support in Abbas’ Fatah dominated West Bank. Fatah had little hope of supplanting Hamas in Gaza before. Now its chances must be less than zero.

Hamas is holding talks with all other Palestinian factions, including Fatah’s own breakaway rivals, to build a common front to counter the Palestinian Authority and challenge its continued claim to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian people. And Mahmoud Abbas’ position is now in question and barring a wave of Israeli concessions that could prop up his flagging credibility it is difficult to see how he can remain in office much longer.