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      Wiki-Jazeera Scandal: Abbas & PA Leadership Stave Off Attacks

      With the Al-Jazeera leaks of PA negotiating positions threatening to bring down Abbas leadership, PA leaders go on offensive, blast Qatar's Emir.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 1/25/2011, 3:27 PM / Last Update: 1/25/2011, 3:52 PM

      With the Al-Jazeera leaks of official Palestinian Authority documents threatening to bring down the Abbas leadership, PA leaders are taking the offensive and blasting the Emir of Qatar.

      Commentators say that the ongoing scandal, revealing the extent of the PA "concessions" to Israel, could both bring down the Abbas government and render worthless any agreement reached between the PA and Israel.

      Al-Jazeera, the international Arabic-language news network, announced on Sunday that over the past several months, it had been given unhindered access to the largest-ever leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thousands of pages of diplomatic correspondence, dating from 1999 until 2010, detail the inner workings of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process – and indicate that the PA was willing to make the following "concessions" to Israel:

      * ceding control to Israel over most of eastern Jerusalem,

      * cooperating with Israeli security authorities in matters of apprehending terrorists and the like, and

      * relinquishing the so-called "right of return" for millions of Arab refugees.

      PA Man Blasts Qatar
      On Monday, PLO executive committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo strongly attacked the Emir of Qatar for his presumed role in the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV network's leak of the documents.

      Also on Monday, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas said that the Al-Jazeera report "inadvertently confuses between the many Israeli proposals… and Palestinian positions."

      In a press conference in Ramallah, Abed Rabbo said the release of the documents was a political campaign directed by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar. Abed Rabbo accused Al-Jazeera of falsifying the documents it revealed by changing the text and adding photographs of people not involved with the talks.

      In addition, he asked Al-Thani to be forthcoming regarding his own country and reveal the true extent of his relations with both Iran and Israel. He also called for an independent committee to study the authenticity of the papers.

      Hamas, the main rival of Fatah and the Abbas-led PA, jumped on the opportunity to attack Fatah. The released papers show the PA's "ugly face," a Hamas spokesman said, as well as the "level of its cooperation with the occupation."

      Al-Jazeera plans to reveal additional documents on a daily basis.

      Commentators: Abbas and Co. are Teetering
      Arab-affairs commentator Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in a Jerusalem Post column that the revelations indicate "high treason… punishable by death." He wrote that the leaks are essentially a call upon the Authority leadership to "step down from the stage [for] betray[ing] their people."  

      "It’s hard to see how the W. Bank leadership will be able to salvage what’s left of its credibility," he writes.

      As part of the PA's attempt to do so, however, chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat wrote an editorial for the Maan news agency. "Even though many ideas have been discussed by the two sides as part of the normal negotiations process," he wrote, "including some we could never agree to, we have consistently said any proposed agreement would have to gain popular support through a national referendum."

      This should serve as a warning signal to the Israeli negotiators that not only is the PA's leadership base teetering, but also that any agreement reached between Israel and the PA would have to be approved in a PA referendum.

      In addition, analyst Dr. Aaron Lerner of IMRA writes that if Toameh is correct in his analysis, then it will be "virtually impossible for Israel to reach a viable peace agreement with legitimate and credible representatives of the Palestinians."