What do the Palestinian Papers Really Say?

January 27, 2011 by Raffe Gold
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Palestinian refugees into Israel which would destroy the Jewish demography and end Israel as we know it. The Palestinian negotiators know all of this and so they approach these peace talks with a realistic sense of what is achievable.


Raffe Gold

The recent release of the Palestine Papers has painted various Middle East actors in a number of different lights. Tzipi Livni, then Israeli Foreign Minister and now leader of the Opposition, has had her hardline security credential vindicated whilst the Palestinian Prime Minister and various members of the negotiation team have come out as overreaching, weak-willed and far too easy to concede on the most important points to the Palestinian people; settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. However the Palestinians should not be condemning their leaders but celebrating that them as realists. Israel is not going away, settlements, especially those which have become significant population centres, are a permanent fixture and the right of return of Palestinians, especially those born since their grandparent’s departure, is off the table. With leaders who are willing to see past the propaganda that they feed their own people, the papers reveal that we are in an era for the greatest chance at peace we have. With a peace partner who can understand the facts on the ground, we will to see the creation of a Palestinian state.


An oft-misattributed quote to Moshe Yaalon is, “the Palestinians have to learn that they are a defeated people”. Whilst Yaalon did not say this it is an interesting point to put the Palestinian Papers in their rightful context. Israel is, quite simply, the victor. She has bested enemies who are numerically superior on the conventional battlefield, she has annexed conquered land, settled the land she won in battle, and she has managed to do this all whilst retaining military superiority against her immediate neighbors. During this time she has negotiated with her enemies on several occasions and painfully given away land for peace. She has unilaterally withdrawn from both Lebanon and Gaza only to be on the receiving end of tens of thousands of rockets and alarming military build-ups that threaten the safety and security of the civilians living in as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is these harsh experiences that have led Israelis, especially those who lead them, to ensure that when they enter into negotiations with the Palestinian Authority the end result will not be a third Iranian proxy force five minutes from the centre of Jerusalem, as is the case in Lebanon with Hezbollah and Gaza with Hamas.

With all of these fears that Israel has about rockets, terrorists and refugees it is not surprising that they are taking a particularly hard line when it comes to Palestinian demands. The Palestinian side knows this. They are aware that Israel has been spurned by unilateral peace moves in the past and they are also aware that they hold very few cards. Israel does not want to occupy the Palestinians. Such an occupation would not bode well for Israel, the Palestinians or the entire region. However it is also unreasonable for the Palestinians, and the international community, to think that Israel will abide by some of the more outrageous demands of the Palestinian street. Israel will not withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, referred to by the esteemed diplomat Abba Eban as the ‘Auschwitz lines’, nor will she accept a removal of the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who are living in the major cities of the West Bank or the assimilation of Palestinian refugees into Israel which would destroy the Jewish demography and end Israel as we know it. The Palestinian negotiators know all of this and so they approach these peace talks with a realistic sense of what is achievable.

Over the coming days and months, when more of these papers are released, the Palestinian street will bemoan the fact that Israel is demanding so much of a helpless people. The international community will chastise Israel for not sacrificing enough for peace and Israel will again be seen as the stumbling block to a peaceful Middle East. Yet these detractors have short memories. They have not considered that Israel has sacrificed so much for nothing but empty promises and more violence. She has given up her deterrence, the  land won by her sons and daughters, often with their blood after they were attacked, and her dream of peace and security, all for the ethereal possibility that peace may come. It is time for the Palestinians to realize that they cannot have Tel Aviv, Haifa or all of Jerusalem. Thankfully Abbas, Fayyad and the rest of the Palestinian negation team understand this reality.

The old saying ‘there are two things you do not want to see made: laws and sausages’ could possibly be updated to add third, peace treaties. As we have seen with the exposure of the papers, during these negotiations, Israel was closer to negotiating a Palestinian state than almost ever before, the then Israeli government will have to answer why they did not accept it. And there is no doubt that the disclosure of these documents will make the future negotiations so much harder. Palestinians will demand what Israel refuses to give in order to placate the extremists on the street who pose such a danger to the Abbas government and this conflict will continue on and on. These papers spell grave danger to the peace process. However it is comforting to know that we truly do have a realistic partner on the other side of the negotiating table; for however much longer


4 Responses to “What do the Palestinian Papers Really Say?”
  1. debbie sleigh says:

    Stewart, the long view of history is indeed important.

    The Jewish People are the oldest culture and people living in the land now called Israel.
    The name of the mountainous southern part of the historic Land of Israel was called Judea. This is where the word ‘Jew’ comes from.
    In 722 BC, the Assyrians conquered the northern tribes of Israel and so Judea became the main homeland of the Jewish People.

    Many empires had tried to colonise and subjugate Judea, but the Jewish People constantly rebelled and reinstated their independence.

    In 135 AD after the Jewish People had fought a third long and bloody war against Imperialist Rome (!) – Roman Emperor Hadrian razed Jerusalem to the ground, killed or enslaved the city’s population and renamed Judea ‘Syria Palaestina’, after the Jewish People’s ancient enemy the Philistines, in an attempt to de-Judaize the country (the anglicised version is ‘Palestine’. This land is now known as Israel, the West Bank and Gaza).

    After their last war against Rome, most of the remaining Jewish population moved to other parts of Judea, but never left.

    In the 6th century there were 43 Jewish communities in Palestine (Judea). 12 on the coast, in the Negev, and east of the Jordan, and 31 villages in Galilee and in the Jordan valley. Yavne on the coastal plain was an important center of Rabbinic Judaism.

    The cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberius and Safed (The birthtown of the Kabbalah) have since ancient times been centres of Jewish living and Jewish study and learning.

    The Arabs colonised ‘Palestine’ in 638BC, over 1650 years after the Jewish People had become a kingdom under King Saul, then King David with Jerusalem as its capital.

    Ever since the creation of the first Jewish diaspora, the Jewish people have been praying to return to Israel and their golden capital and heart, Jerusalem, which is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible 669 times, but not once in the Koran.
    In spite of terrible hardship over the centuries, the Jewish diaspora have kept returning to their homeland.

    The Jewish People have an unbroken presence of over 3000 years in their land now called Israel.

    You say in your article that despite resistance from neighbouring Arab states Israel had control of 77% of the original mandated territory (again despite only 30 years before 90% of the population was not Jewish).

    In 1917, soon after it assumed its role as Mandatory, Great Britain ceded a portion of the Golan Heights to the French Mandate of Syria, and, more importantly, it severed the Palestinian territories east of the Jordan River from the territories between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Britain designated the eastern portion of the Palestine Mandate (which comprised approximately 78% of the entire Palestinian Mandate) “Transjordan”. The remaining 22% of the Mandate in the west retained the name “Palestine”. Britain’s severing of Transjordan from the rest of Palestine led to two important results: first, Britain disallowed all Jewish settlement in Transjordan (thereby limiting Jewish settlement to the remaining 22% of the territory), and second, Transjordan ultimately became an independent Arab state carved out of territory from the Mandate of Palestine. Hence, when PA officials complain about there being no Arab state in Palestine, they simply disregard the existing Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which is an Arab state existing on 78% of the territory taken from the Mandate of Palestine.
    Once the Mandate was split and Transjordan severed from the territory in which the Jewish homeland could be established, the Arabs remaining in the western portion of the Mandate (which retained the name Palestine) had multiple opportunities to establish an Arab state in the 22% of the Mandate still open to Jewish settlement. In each instance, the Arabs rejected the opportunity to do so because they wanted it all. In 1938, for example, the Peel Commission proposed a partition plan that would have given the Jews of Palestine approximately 40% of the smaller, western portion of the original Mandate (that computes to about 9% of the total territory—40% of the 22% of the total Mandate territory = 8.8%). Had the Arabs accepted that plan, Arabs would have been in control of over 90% of the entire territory of the Palestinian Mandate (i.e., 60% of the 22% of the total Mandate territory = 13.2% PLUS the 78% called Transjordan = 91.2%). During that same timeframe, two other partition plans were proposed and rejected by the Arabs.

    Today there are 57 Arab/ Muslim countries with a population of 1.5 billion.

    There is one Jewish State with a population of about 5.8 million Jews and 1 million Arabs and about 1 million Christians, Druze, Bahais and others.
    The country is so small that one can drive around its circumference in a day.

    You say that a long view of history must be remembered. You are right. The long view of history very much vindicates the Jewish people’s right to self determination in this tiny part of their homeland, which they share with other peoples, whose well being surpasses that of the majority of their brethren in any other of the surrounding countries.

    The re-establishment of a Jewish state in Israel by a vote of the UN was the world’s recognition of the Jewish people’s historical right to nationhood in their homeland. It was therefore an ‘anti-colonial’ act.

    Israel does not deny the right of Arab Palestinian self-determination in a land which has been inhabited by both Arabs and Jews for millenia.
    Israel is committed ton a two-state solution.

  2. Dash says:

    Stewart forgets that until Jews won the 67 conflict the League of Nations and later the United Nations had no qualms with cvountries annexing land captured in defensive wars. It was the Soviet bloc that changed this to placate Arab clients following their losses on the battlefield. Israel has every right to keep Judea and Sumeria. Perhaps Stewart et al will demand the UK and USA yield their captured territories…?

  3. Richard Joachim says:

    The main thing that comes out of this is that the ‘Palestinian’ leadership cannot be trusted in any way. It’s like trying to play a game where one team changes the rules every few minutes. They’ll say whatever they see as advantageous to them at any given moment. The reality is that the ‘leadership’ does not have the interests of the people they supposedly represent in any way. Their primary concern is holding onto what power and privilege have think they have. Arafat hardly did a stick of work in his life yet died a very rich man – it was an example of terrorism for fun or profit.

    I dare say that after Tunisia, Egypt, other North African ‘Muslim’ autocracies, Lebanon, possibly Iran, Syria, and maybe even the Gulf States – the ‘Palestinian’ and Gazaian ‘governments’ will implode as the ordinary people are no longer prepared to take rule by deceivers, self-seekers and autocrats – be they so-called ‘religious’ autocrats, or clans trying to create dynasties.

  4. 1. The prohibition of acquiring territory through force

    Raffe, it would have been better to base your arguments on international human rights obligations and international humanitarian law. Instead what we saw were arguments used that would have made Jabotinsky proud. Jabotinsky, like the arguments you have used support the dangerous precedence of resolving disputes by getting facts on the ground despite the dissent of the local population as a means to prejudge future situations.

    Indonesia tried to do this in its conquest of East Timor and continues to use this tactic in West Papua. The only thing is for both Israel and Indonesia, the taking of territory by force has been illegal under international law since at least the UN Charter was ratified (not fogetting the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact).

    To demonstrate this see Ardi Imseis (2007):
    “In 1967 the General Assembly and Security Council issued numerous resolutions declaring Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem to be contrary to international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention. For instance, in Resolution 2253 (ES–V) of July 4, 1967, the General Assembly declared all “measures taken by Israel to change the status of the City” to be “invalid,” and in Resolution 252 of May 21, 1968, the Security Council proclaimed that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel . . . which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status.” Notwithstanding these clear expressions of international opposition, however, Israeli authorities continued to implement policies designed to integrate East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem, remaining unequivocally of the opinion that this process “was irreversible and not negotiable.”

    The high-water mark of Israeli legislative attempts to consolidate this “unification” policy came with the passing of the so-called “Basic Law” on Jerusalem on 30 July 1980. According to this law, “united” Jerusalem was declared to be the eternal capital of the State of Israel. Much like its reaction following the passing of the Law and Administration Ordinance (Amendment No. 11) Law and the Municipalities Ordinance (Amendment No. 6) Law in 1967, the international community reacted quickly to condemn Israel through Resolution 478. In this Resolution, the UN Security Council affirmed the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory through the threat or use of force and the continued applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to “Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since June 1967, including Jerusalem” [emphasis added]. It further declared that “the enactment of the ‘basic law’ by Israel” constituted “a violation of international law” and was “null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.” To these authoritative restatements of the law governing acquisition of territory through the threat or use of force, have been added similar reaffirmations by the International Court of Justice, other organs of the UN, and the ICRC.

    2. Repeated compromises by Palestinian leaders
    Raffe, I agree that Abbas has shown courage to continue find ways to find peace for the people of Israel and Palestine. But a long view of history must be remembered. In 1917 nearly 90% of the human beings in the region were not Jewish. These 90% were denied self-determination within a multiethnic state following the defeat of the Ottomans (whether that state was part of Syria a large Arab khalifate or as a state of Palestine). Instead the 90% faced occupation by the British. Later Britain’s control was asserted by the League of Nations, that very much mirrored the policy of the two key victors of WWI the British Empire and France. This was against the wishes of the 90%. Despite this Jewish emigration from Europe flourished. Taking the Jewish community’s size from less than 10% in 1917 to nearly 33% by 1947. Despite a population of 33% this community under a UN GA Resolution was to have 55% of the land; again despite the interst of the original 90% from 1917. The Security Council 4 months later (in MArch 1948) rejected the partition plan an returned the question to a Special Session of the GA which looked at placing PAlestine as a UN Trusteeship. Israel rejected this and unilaterally declared a state. But before so it conquered key cities like Jaffa and Haifa. At the end of their conquest, despite resistance from neighbouring Arab states Israel had control of 77% of the original mandated territory (again despite only 30 years before 90% of the population was not Jewish).

    Raffe, please, I realise it is difficult to see the conflict another way, but there is another way to view the struggle. Only then can Palestinians and Israelis move together in peace. I trust your time in Israel is well; and I hope you get to spend some time with Uri Avnery, Joseph Dana and the like. The long view of history will remember their place in building peace.

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