Secret files show slow death of peace process Seumas Milne and Ian Black

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the West Asia conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel's annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem.
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Updated on Jan 25, 2011 01:15 AM IST
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None | By, Washington

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the West Asia conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel's annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem. This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world.

A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV. The papers provide an extraordinary insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.

The documents also reveal:
The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state.

The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.

The central role of British intelligence in drawing up a secret plan to crush Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel's 2008-9 war in Gaza -- a claim denied by Israel which says the PA was told nothing more than the rest of the world was.

As well as the annexation of all East Jerusalem settlements except Har Homa, the Palestine papers show PLO leaders privately suggested swapping part of the flashpoint East Jerusalem Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah for land elsewhere.

Most controversially, they also proposed a joint committee to take over the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem's Old City - the neuralgic issue that helped sink the Camp David talks in 2000 after Yasser Arafat refused to concede sovereignty around the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques.

The offers were made in 2008-9, in the wake of George Bush's Annapolis conference, and were privately hailed by the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, as giving Israel "the biggest Yerushalayim [the Hebrew name for Jerusalem] in history" in order to resolve the world's most intractable conflict. Many of the 1,600 leaked documents are supplemented by WikiLeaks cables.

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