Palestinian officials who decry Gilo colony in public, offered it to Israel in negotiations

Palestinian officials in Ramallah have condemned Israel’s recently announced decision to expand by 1,100 Jewish-only housing units the illegal settlement of Gilo built on land stolen from the occupied West Bank villages of Beit Jala, Beit Safafa and Sharafat.

But what they say in public is at odds with their private willingless to hand the settlement over to Israel in its entirety.

Condemnation from “chief negotiator”

A 27 September press release states:

Chief Palestinian Negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat strongly condemned the Israeli government’s approval of 1,100 new housing units in the illegal settlement Gilo, built on the land of Beit Jala in the Bethlehem District. Dr. Erekat described the approval as a “slap in the face to all international efforts to protect the fading prospects of peace in the region.” He added, “Israel responded to the Quartet Statement and French Initiative with 1100 no’s. Netanyahu has embarrassed all those in the international community who insisted that there was a peace partner in Israel.”

Erekat’s statement added, “By its illegitimate actions, Israel wants to guarantee that there will be no land left to implement the two-state solution.”

Gilo was offered to Israel in 2008

Israel’s colonization of the occupied territories is a blatant and grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and thus constitutes a war crime under international law.

Erekat’s public condmenation of the Israeli action, however, is at odds with the positions put forward in high-level meetings between Palestiian, Israeli and American officials.

In early 2008, Palestinian negotiators offered to let Israel annex all settlements in and around Jerusalem except for one, as part of a “one for one land swap.” But the land swap proposals would have seen Palestinians receiving negligible land in the Jerusalem area; most would have been near Gaza, and south of Hebron.

The landowners of Beit Jala, Beit Safafa and Sharafat would not receive land near their villages in exchange for what was taken from them by Israel.

On 15 June 2008, top Palestinian officials, led by Ahmad Qureia, met in Jerusalem with an Israeli team headed by then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and an American team led by then US Secretary of State Condolozeea Rice.

Palestinian minutes of the 15 June 2008 meeting and others in which the settlements were discussed were leaked by Al Jazeera as part of the Palestine Papers.

During the meeting, Qureia stated, according to the minutes:

As for settlements, we proposed the following: Removal of some settlements, annexation of others, and keeping others under Palestinian sovereignty. This last proposition could help in the swap process. We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Jabal Abu Ghneim (Har Homa). This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition; we refused to do so n [sic] Camp David.

Later in the same meeting, Erekat himself explains that under the Palestinian proposal, Israel would annex 310,000 settlers, or 70 percent of the settlers living illegally on occupied land at that time.

Yet Livni rejected the Palestinian offer as insufficient because it did not include the settlements of Maaleh Adumim, Efrat, Ariel, Giv’at Ze’ev or Hara Homa (Jabal Abu Ghneim) which all ring Jerusalem.

Responding to Livni’s complaint, Erekat affirmed what the proposal did include:

Why do I not say the opposite, that there are Zakhron Ya’cov [sic], the French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Ramot Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, Tal Piot, and the Jewish Quarter in the old city of Jerusalem.

“Settlements have cornered us”

It is true that in the same meeting – and others – the Palestinian officials objected to ongoing settlement construction, because, as Qureia put it:

Settlement activities have cornered us and if they continue they will embarrass us before Palestinian public opinion and the Arab world which is urging us to negotiate but at the same time is demanding us not to make the negotiations an umbrella for the continuation of settlement activities.

Currently, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestine Liberation Organization, both of which are under the control of Mahmoud Abbas, are refusing to return to negotiations until Israel freezes settlements.

The Israeli government has rejected criticism of its expansion of Gilo colony. Ynet reported:

“Gilo is not a settlement nor an outpost. It is a neighborhood in the very heart of Jerusalem about five minutes from the centre of town,” Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said.

Gilo, Regev added, has “staid [sic] part of Jerusalem in every peace plan on the table in the past 18 years and therefore this planning decision in no way contradicts the current Israel government’s desire for peace based on two states for the two peoples.”

Erekat’s denials

Reached by telephone, a testy Erekat denied to The Electronic Intifada that any proposal had ever been presented to the Israelis which would include annexation of settlements including Gilo, and repeated his earlier allegations that the release of the Palestine Papers was part of a plot by the Al Jazeera Network to discredit him. But the record shows this is simply not true as the documents show.

Erekat also alleged that recent Wikileaks revelations that former Al Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar had had discussions with American officials about the Network’s coverage confirmed his thesis.

In February, weeks after the Palestine Papers were revealed, Erekat resigned from his post. Yet the “chief negotiator” never actually stepped down. He now explains this by saying that since his resignation was never accepted, it never become operative.

When confronted with the specific documents detailing the Palestinian proposals to Israel and his own quoted words, Erekat asserted that any proposals made were not “official” or binding because of the principle that “until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed.”

Accepting that principle, however, does not change the fact that the Palestinian negotiators already told Israel, back in 2008, that Gilo would be theirs forever, and did so at repeated meetings and in the presence of the US Secretary of State. If that is not “official” then nothing is.

As Erekat notoriously put it, using Israel’s Hebrew name for Jerusalem and the vast colonies outside it, he and his colleagues had offered Israel “the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history.”

Comments

This is the man who produced a PSA video apologizing to Israeli settlers which was widely condemned. This is a man who invented belly-grovelling and is by far the one of the most despised of all Palestinians. Along with Dahlaan and Yassir Abedrabbo, Saeb is responsible for driving tens of thousands of Palestinians into Hamas's arms because of his corruption. He does not need Al-Jazeera to undermine him.

you do realize in negotiation you are allowed to lie to het more profits , if such a document was true it wouldn't be signed or havung the PA seal , making it a useless piece of paper
I am not with this man nor against him , but the aricle was emotional driven , even tho it contained some facts.

I don’t know what “emotional driven” means.

The issue of the expansion of Gilo doesn't really have anything to do with the last round of talks, or what the PA did or did not accept. The issue is: the expansion of the Glio settlement towards Har Homa threatens to cut off Beit Safafa from the rest of the West Bank. The situation is pretty clear when you use the map:
http://www.ir-amim.org.il/Eng/...

Look - I don't actually like Ir Amim (although I learned a lot on their free tour). My position is: I'm opposed to all the settlements. And, I guess I'm way outside the middle stream because in my view Israelis in general are settlers. After all, pretty much all of them live on land stolen from Palestinians. And even the land that was "bought" pre-state was largely extorted from foreign arab land owners through ludicrously high British taxation, and then sold exclusively to zionists. But, I don't think this incessant attacking of the PA helps with anything. The genuine concern about the PA is not where the line will be going through Jerusalem, but are they selling out the right of return? What happened to the PLO, and who will represent the refugees if state recognition is achieved?

We should use the expansion of Gilo as an opportunity to show why Israel is doing everything in their power to block the establishment of a Palestinian state. Because they absolutely are - and it's weird! Why are they opposed to accepting the PA's sell out? Their pathology will lead to their undoing. So, I don't think it's the best to use this as an opportunity to attack the PA for accepting the Clinton parameters - even if we might hate the Clinton parameters - it just doesn't help.

Tristan thanks for your comments. Two things: the PA/PLO need to be accountable, and they aren’t. You might make a distinction between expansion and annexation but Israel doesn’t. It uses the proposed annexation, predictably, as justification for annexation: ‘it’s ours anyway, so why shouldn’t we build in it?’ What is worse about the PA/PLO offer on the Jerusalem area settlements is they made it at a time when Israel hadn’t even agreed to discuss “Jerusalem.” They showed their hand for nothing.

What really baffles me is the inertia of the Palestinian people to ensure they have an elected leadership of integrity and honour that will fight for a Palestinian state that doesn't comprimise land or rights.

The rot in Palestine isn't something new. Abbas's term expired 20 months ago, PA corruption and collaboration has spanned decades along with useless negotiations by a leadership of egotistic beggars of the likes of Abbas, Erekat, Fayyad that is prepared to settle for 22% of historic Palestine- all of which is beyond obscene - plus the absurdity of a people blinded and mired in an impotent disunity orchestrated by Israel.

There is so much talent and intelligence within the Palestinian communities inside Palestine and in the diaspora. And yet Palestinians passively respect and admire the Arab spring but do nothing to arrogate democracy and their rightful land for themselves and their children.

So far, no Palestinian leadership has been or is worthy of the suffering and all the blood spilt for Palestinian freedom.

Erekat said: “By its illegitimate actions, Israel wants to guarantee that there will be no land left to implement the two-state solution.”He is mistaken; there IS no land left to implement the two-state solution.

The PA "leadership" often uses this point as a scare-tactic to force Israelis into compliance, the idea being that non-compliance will eventually result in one state with Jewish minority. But it never worked in the past, and will not likely work in the future; Israel enjoys too much power to "act" otherwise.

I wish someone would push the PA "reps" on this issue and ask 1) how much land will Israel need to steal before they finally believe there is not enough territory for two states and 2) when that point arrives, what will be their official position be for resolving the conflict, and what strategy will they use?