Tragically in some ways, the papers also reveal the degeneration of the Palestine Authority (PA) under Mahmoud Abbas. The more intransigent the Israelis, the more PA officials grovelled while hiding the truth about what they were doing from the Palestinian people.
All to no avail. The lingering death of the "peace process" is self-evident.
Al Jazeera TV published the leaked files, which contain more than 1,600 internal documents related to the last decade of peace negotiations. They include memos, e-mails, maps, minutes from private meetings, accounts of high level exchanges, strategy papers and even power point presentations.
Among Al Jazeera's significant revelations are major offers by the PA to Israel in the context of settlements in East Jerusalem, including major portions of the Old City that adjoin the Dome of the Rock, the second holiest site in Islam.
PA leaders also proposed "unprecedented" land swaps with the Israeli government, Al Jazeera revealed. In 2008, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas after the PA offered to allow the Israeli state to annex most of the East Jerusalem settlements without demanding concessions in return.
Olmert reportedly showed Abbas a map of the newly-proposed swaps, which outlined Israel's plan to annex more than 10 percent of the West Bank. "Abbas was not allowed to keep a copy of the map, and so the 73-year-old Palestinian president had to sketch a copy by hand on a napkin," the network added.
Desperate for a deal, Palestinian negotiators led by Saeb Erekat privately agreed that only 10, 000 refugees and their families, out of a total refugee population exceeding 5 million, could return to Israel as part of a settlement.
Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state under George Bush, suggested in 2008 Palestinian refugees could be resettled in South America. "Maybe we will be able to find countries that can contribute in kind," she said. "Chile, Argentina, etc."
PLO leaders also accepted Israel's demand to define itself as an explicitly Jewish state, in sharp contrast to their public position. Erekat privately told Israeli negotiators: "If you want to call your state the Jewish state of Israel you can call it what you want." Israel's 1.3 million Palestinian citizens are particularly opposed to the notion of a “Jewish state” because it undermines their own rights which are constantly being eroded in any case.
The Electronic Intifada’s co-founder and executive director, Ali Abunimah, was given special access to the documents and helped analyse them for Al Jazeera. He said:
What we can discern immediately from these documents is that the US-brokered negotiations, especially under the Obama administration, can never lead to the restoration of Palestinian rights and that the two-state solution is basically dead. In the long term, we will have to ask how the peace process charade, revealed in these papers, was allowed to continue for so long as Israel continued its relentless colonisation of Palestinian land and the Palestinian Authority that was supposed to be a step on the road to freedom become a sophisticated tool of continued Israeli occupation.
He is right. But the responsibility for the almost desperate nature of the concessions lies not just with the PA leaders but with also with other Arab regimes, especially Egypt’s who help Israel to enforce a blockade of Gaza, for example. From Damascus to Amman, discredited leaders have watched the Palestinian people’s suffering from a safe distance. Washington, of course, has consistently backed the Israelis and the Zionist view that they have a God-given right to occupy Palestinan land.
A way forward may now be opening up as the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia finds its echo in Cairo today and other Arab cities tomorrow. The sweeping out of the old dictatorships can open the way to a new leadership and the building of a secular, single state which Jews and Palestinians can co-habit as they did in earlier times.