Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala)
Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala)Israel news photo: Flash 90

Secret Palestinian Authority documents that were leaked to Al-Jazeera television and were published on Sunday, say that PA negotiators apparently told Israel that it could keep most of east Jerusalem.

The leaked documents, which some media outlets have termed “The Palestine Papers,” are in fact minutes of a 2008 meeting between PA, U.S. and Israeli officials. According to the documents, the Palestinian Authority suggested that Israel annex all the Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem with the exception of Har Homa.

The motion was apparently presented by PA negotiator Abu Ala (Ahmed Qureia) in a meeting that was held in the presence of Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Abu Ala was quoted in the document as saying: “This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition,” and added that the PA had refused to make such a concession during negotiations led by former President Yasser Arafat in 2000.

Al-Jazeera reported that the Jerusalem areas offered were areas where Jewish communities have been established, including French Hill, Ramat Alon and Gilo, as well as the Jewish Quarter and a part of the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The network also made sure to claim that Israel had offered nothing in return for what it called this “historic concession.”

Al-Jazeera said that it had other documents that it would publish shortly. It claimed that the additional documents show the Arabs were also ready to make other massive concessions on the issue of “the right of return”: They apparently offered to accept the return to Israeli territories of only 100,000 of those Arabs who fled at the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and their descendants, who now number almost five million. This has been publicized in the past.

The documents leaked on Sunday are part of some 1,600 documents related to the Middle East peace process which Al-Jazeera said it had obtained in recent months from a variety of sources. The Guardian newspaper in Britain has apparently also had access to the documents and said it had verified most of them.

Erekat dismissed the documents shortly after they were released, and told Al-Jazeera that they are “a bunch of lies.” The Associated Press reported that the Palestinian Authority denied that the documents were authentic and in fact claimed that some of them were fabricated.

Livni, now the opposition leader and then Foreign Minister, issued a statement on Sunday in which she said that she will continue to maintain discretion on the negotiations so that they have a chance of resuming in the future, obviously referring to her hoped-for premiership.

“In any case, we do not intend to acknowledge any internal PA documents or interpretations, whether they are correct or not, including those reports,” Livni's office said in the statement and added: “Livni believes that an agreement which ends the dispute is a clear Israeli interest which can be reached through continued negotiations. She will continue to prove that through proper conduct, Israel’s interests can be kept in negotiations.”

The office of then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in response to the leaking of the documents that the documents “have many inaccuracies. Because of the sensitivity of the matter we will not respond beyond that right now.”

Meanwhile, Hamas said that the documents revealed the Palestinian Authority's role in “attempting to liquidate the Palestinian cause,” Reuters quoted the organization as saying.

The leaked documents come on the heels of an interview given by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to Al-Jazeera on Saturday. In the interview, Abbas claimed that he had reached agreements with Olmert that Jerusalem would not be divided. The two leaders agreed, he said, that Jerusalem would remain open to all religions and would have two municipalities operating side by side, one Jewish and one Arab.

Abbas used the interview to call upon Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to agree to make these understandings the basis for renewing negotiations between the PA and Israel.  The reason for  the Abbas about-face was unclear, but may have to do with  the an attempt to change the impression  that the PA is to blame for the freeze in negotiations.