Documents to show 'intimate level of covert co-operation' between Israel, Palestinian Authority

"Desperate" Palestinian negotiators offered Israel almost all of Jerusalem as part of a peace deal, only to see the offer rejected as inadequate, leaked official Palestinian documents show.

Documents leaked to Arabic news channel al-Jazeera and obtained by the Guardian show that senior Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia made the offer to Israeli negotiators in June of 2008, at a meeting attended by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

Qureia's offer would see all of East Jerusalem, except one neighborhood -- Har Homa -- handed over permanently to Israel as part of a peace deal.

"This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so in Camp David," Qureia reportedly said, referring to the peace negotiations held under President Clinton, which fell apart in 2000 with the start of the Second Intifada.

In response, "the Israeli side refused to even place Jerusalem on the agenda, let alone offer the PA concessions in return for its historic offer," al-Jazeera reports.

The Guardian reports:

Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni is recorded as dismissing the offer out of hand because the Palestinians had refused to concede Har Homa, as well as the settlements at Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, and Ariel, deeper in the West Bank. Israel's position was fully supported by the Bush administration.

"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," Livni said.

"These documents could discredit among Palestinians the very notion of negotiation with Israel and the two-state solution that underpins it," Jonathan Freedland wrote in a comment piece at the Guardian.

What's more, the documents blow apart what has been a staple of Israeli public diplomacy: the claim that there is no Palestinian partner. That theme, a refrain of Israeli spokesmen on and off for years, is undone by transcripts which show that there is not only a Palestinian partner but one more accommodating than will surely ever appear again....

Freedland and others suggested that the revelations could undermine Fatah, the ruling Palestinian faction, to the benefit of Hamas and other more radical groups, particularly if Fatah is seen to be acting in Israel's interests rather than Palestinians'. The Guardian's Seumas Milne reports that Palestinian negotiators come off as "weak and increasingly desperate" in the leaked documents.

And there is plenty in what al-Jazeera and the Guardian are calling "The Palestine Papers" to suggest this could easily become a widely-held perception among Palestinians. At a meeting shortly before the Jerusalem offer, Qureia told Livni, "I would vote for you."

"Many on the Palestinian streets will recoil to read not just the concessions offered by their representatives – starting with the yielding of those parts of East Jerusalem settled by Israeli Jews – but the language in which those concessions were made," Freedland wrote. "To hear their chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, tell the Israelis that the Palestinians are ready to concede 'the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history' – even using the Hebrew word for the city – will strike many as an act of humiliation."

Al-Jazeera and the Guardian were vague on the source of the Palestinian negotiating documents, though neither news organization mentioned WikiLeaks in their coverage. The documents appear to come primarily from the Palestinian Negotiating Support Unit, an agency within the Palestinian government backed by Britain and other European countries that offers assistance to Palestinian negotiators.

The Guardian reported that future document releases would show an "intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority" and "how Palestinian Authority leaders were privately tipped off about Israel's 2008-9 war in Gaza," among other things.