[ On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009. The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel. A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see. But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.
Quid pro quo ...The Goldstone Report, formally known as the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released in mid-September 2009 amid calls for a review of Israel’s wartime practices. The probe was led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge; it identified war crimes committed overwhelmingly by Israeli forces, but also by Hamas, during Israel’s war on Gaza. Both the United States and Israel were outspoken in their criticism of the report, claiming that any UN endorsement would endanger the peace process and future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already admitted that the PA asked for the postponement;!! he said at the time it was to secure more international support before the vote. "Since we felt we would not be able to gather enough support we asked for the postponement," Abbas said in October 2009. "We wanted to reach mechanisms that would ensure the implementation of the decision and punish the perpetrators of crimes against our people.”
What The Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.
At a September 24, 2009 meeting between Saeb Erekat (PLO), George Mitchell and David Hale, the latter informed Erekat that “Our intention is to move quickly to relaunch negotiations. We are wrapping up an agreement on a package with Israel, and including other parties.” .
Erekat resisted, saying “I simply cannot afford to go into a process that is bound to fail. I am trying to defend my existence and way of life.” Mitchell informs Erekat that President Barack Obama’s “attitude was consistent: we need to proceed to negotiations; delay will not be beneficial to anyone.”
During the same meeting, the U.S. also stressed to the PA that it was actively engaged in supporting the PA through other means. Mitchell informs Erekat, “I’ve devoted half my time over the last several months to things like getting you support (for example with Kuwait), not just financial. We will stay the course on this.”
At end of the meeting, Mitchell invites Erekat to Washington, D.C., on the day before the UNHRC was due to vote on the Goldstone report. “Regarding coming to DC next week…you should come next Friday,” Mitchell said. Erekat resisted, countering, “That does not give us enough time to go back and consult…”
The Palestine Papers further divulge that during the exact time of the crucial UNHRC vote, Erekat was in Washington, D.C. seeking more guarantees from the United States.
During a meeting at the U.S. State Department with Mitchell and Hale, on October 1, 2009, Mitchell reiterated to Erekat not only the U.S.’s commitment to a new round of talks, but also U.S. willingness to take a more active role on behalf of the Palestinians.
Mitchell said the U.S. would “explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem (non-recognition of Israeli annexation and related actions; demolitions, evictions etc.) In such a situation, with negotiations going on, if [Israel] make a provocative announcement, the US has the leverage to state that this undermines the process, and that Israel is acting in bad faith in the negotiations.”
Erekat further bared not only the PA’s reliance on the United States, but the PA’s desperation to get back to the negotiation table. Erekat informs Mitchell that “peace through negotiations is a strategic choice... Our whole future depends on it, and we are counting on the US to help us... Another failure will be devastating.”
The following day, on October 2, 2009- while President Abbas was in New York pushing to postpone the vote on Goldstone - Erekat again met with Senator Mitchell. This time, Erekat appeared to use the expected international backlash to the vote deferral as a bargaining chip in proving their commitment to peace talks.
“I did not come here to complain, but to try to help move forward,” Erekat told Mitchell. “Many people strongly objected to [Abu Mazen] going to NYC and me coming to Washington.”
Mitchell continued building a case to Erekat and the PA on why all parties should move quickly to negotiations. “For 60 years, the choices open to the Palestinian people have become less and less attractive,” Mitchell said. “The circumstance under which they live worse and worse…..Believe me it is the best time.”
Erekat, meanwhile, only seemed to further push Palestinian priorities behind those of even Israel. “We find ourselves in the eye of the storm,” Erekat lamented to Mitchell. “We pray every day that Israel will come to the point where they realize that a Palestinian state on the  border is in their interest...That’s why we are frustrated. We want to help the Israelis.”
At the very same meeting, Senator Mitchell presented Erekat with a document containing language that, if agreed to, would nullify one of the PA’s few weapons – the chance to prosecute Israeli officials for war crimes in Gaza at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The U.S. language stated:
“The PA will help to promote a positive atmosphere conducive to negotiations; in particular during negotiations it will refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative directly or indirectly in international legal forums that would undermine that atmosphere.”
Erekat, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority accepted the language and simultaneously agreed to call for a deferral of the UNHRC vote. Unsurprisingly, this decision was met by outrage, as Palestinians and Arab nations condemned the PA leadership for kowtowing yet again to American and Israeli pressure.
Israel leaked the PA’s support for the resolution deferral on the day before the UNHRC vote was to take place. Erekat, undoubtedly caught off-guard, was outspoken in his complaints weeks later to the U.S. on what he perceived as unfair Israeli tactics. In a meeting with U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones on October 21, 2009, Erekat revealed:
“Then came Goldstone and all hell broke loose. You know the first public response to the Goldstone thing came from Lieberman, who said Abu Mazen agreed to postpone the vote because the Israelis threatened to release the “tapes” showing him coordinating the attack on Gaza with Israel. Then there was the report that he did it for Wataniya, which they said is owned by his two sons.”
Jones, however, was quick to assure Erekat that the PA’s efforts would not go unnoticed. “And thank you for what you did a couple weeks ago,” Jones told Erekat. “It was very courageous.”
That same day, Erekat also met with Mitchell, and wasted no time in asking for the U.S. to deliver on its previous promises.
Erekat: When can you give me something, a document or a package, so I can take it to [Abu Mazen], so we can study it in good faith?
Mitchell: Much of what I read is not controversial...
For the United States, and unfortunately for the PA, it was simply business as usual. ]
The al-Madhoun assassination
Documents include handwritten notes of 2005 exchange between PA and Israel on plan to kill Palestinian fighter in Gaza.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has shown operational willingness to co-operate with Israel to kill its own people, The Palestine Papers indicate.
Among the documents are notes, handwfritten in Arabic, revealing an exchange in 2005 between the PA and Israel on a plan to kill a Palestinian fighter named Hassan al-Madhoun, who lived in the Gaza strip.
Al-Madhoun (born 1973) was a leading figure within the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, a movement aligned to Fatah, which at that stage still held power in Gaza. Al-Madhoun had been accused by Israel of planning deadly bombings at Israel’s Ashdod port and the Qarni crossing between Gaza and Israel.
In a joint committee meeting on fugitives in mid-2005 in Tel Aviv between Shaul Mofaz, the then-Israeli defence minister, and Nasser Youssef, the PA minister of interior, the PA was asked to kill al-Madhoun.
Mofaz: "[…] Hassan Madhoun, we know his address and Rasheed Abu Shabak [chief of the Preventative Security Organisation in Gaza] knows that. Why don't you kill him? Hamas fired [Qassam rockets] because of the elections and this is a challenge to you and a warning to Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president]."
Youssef: "We gave instructions to Rasheed [Abu Shabak] and will see."
Mofaz: "Since we spoke, he has been planning an operation, and that's four weeks ago, and we know that he wants to strike Qarni or Erez [another border crossing between Gaza and Israel]. He is not Hamas and you can kill him."
Youssef: "We work, the country is not easy, our capabilities are limited, and you haven't offered anything."
Mofaz: "I understand that nothing has been accomplished in the [Gaza] Strip."
Some four months after this meeting, on November 1, 2005, al-Madhoun was killed in his car by a missile fired from an Israeli Apache helicopter over the skies of Gaza. The attack also killed a wanted Hamas activist and wounded three other people.
The very next day, Mofaz, who by that time was in Washington, pledged to ease the lives of Palestinians and to pursue peacemaking with President Abbas.
"We want to deal with President Abbas," Mofaz said after meeting with Condoleezza Rice, the then-US Secretary of State, before going to the White House to confer with Stephen Hadley, the then-national security adviser. W
e are waiting to see how the Palestinian Authority will deal with terrorist groups," the Israeli minister said.
Youssef denounced the release of The Palestine Papers in an interview with Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
"Al Jazeera depended on unofficial documents, while I have the official one," Yousef said.
"Mofaz's request to have al-Madhoun killed has been taken out of context. Israel did not ask to kill him but only to arrest him. The killing of a Palestinian is a red line for us. Israel depends on itself when it comes to security, not on us," Youssef added.
The Palestine Papers appear to reveal two primary motives for the Palestinian Authority’s collaboration with Israel and their crackdown on dissent.
Firstly, it serves to maintain the movement's political supremacy at a time when it is being questioned. Secondly, it seems an attempt to signal to the US that it wants to remain a trusted partner in peace talks, regardless the costs.
Saeb Erekat, the PA's chief negotiator acknowledged the cost of gaining US approval and Israeli trust, in a meeting on September 17, 2009 with David Hale, the deputy US Middle East envoy.
Erekat: We have had to kill Palestinians to establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law. We continue to perform our obligations. We have invested time and effort and killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law.
In reaction to Erekat's remarks to Hale, Youssef again said that Al Jazeera had taken quotes out of context.
"Saeb Erekat did not say we killed Palestinians but he said we arrested Palestinians. Israel did not ask to kill or arrest Palestinians. […] We tried to establish a good security measures to serve the interest of the Palestinian state as it needs institutions," Youssef said.
It is not clear as to which killings Erekat is referring to but the discussion about the plan to kill al-Madhoun is just one example of how, since the death of Yasser Arafat, Fatah’s policy of resistance to Israel has become one of collaboration.
The Palestine Papers show how the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, once the spearhead of action against the Israeli occupation, has been transformed into a body that helps maintaining it.
During the Annapolis talks in 2008, Ahmed Qurei, the former Palestinian prime minister also known as Abu Ala, and his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni, discussed collaboration between the brigade and the Israeli security forces.
"Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade is part of the Fatah movement and they agreed to be part of the current security apparatus, even though this was not my position when I was a prime minister. I wanted the Brigade to remain as it was to confront Hamas," Qurei told Livni.
With the common goal of destroying Hamas, the Palestine Papers reveal the extent to which the PA, the US and Israel were willing to work together, and the extent to which the PA linked the fate of Hamas with its own political survival.
"[…] reaching an agreement is a matter of survival for us. It's the way to defeat Hamas," Erekat told Marc Otte, the EU negotiator, in June 2008.
Earlier that year, on January 22, Qurei told Livni; "We'll defeat Hamas if we reach an agreement, and this will be our response to their claim that gaining back our land can be achieved through resistance only."
Erekat: "I can't stand Hamas"
For Fatah, the Annapolis process seems to have been as much about crushing Hamas as about ending Israel's occupation. The Annapolis process was meant to be a round of peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement to solve the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But instead of focusing on resolving the core issues at hand, why did Palestinian negotiators spend so much time during the meetings denigrating their political rivals, Hamas?
The Palestine Papers reveal that Fatah was obsessed with maintaining political supremacy over Hamas, with Israel’s cooperation, especially following the 2006 electoral victory of the Islamist movement. Documents obtained by Al Jazeera also show the extent to which the Palestinian Authority cracked down on Hamas institutions to weaken the group and strengthen its own relationship with Israel.
At the height of negotiations, on April 7, 2008, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni was unequivocal in summing up Israel’s policy: “Our strategic view is to strengthen you and weaken Hamas.”
Working with Israel to weaken Hamas also appeared to be in the Palestinian Authority’s interest. During a May 6, 2008 security meeting between Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Israeli army civil administration in the West Bank, and Hazem Atallah, the head of the Palestinian Civil Police, Hamas was a prominent subject of discussion.
Yoav Mordechai: How is your fight against “civilian” Hamas: the officers, people in municipalities, etc. This is a serious threat.
Hazem Atallah: I don’t work at the political level, but I agree we need to deal with this.
Yoav Mordechai: Hamas needs to be declared illegal by your President. So far it is only the militants that are illegal.
Atallah: There is also the request for tear gas canisters. You previously gave us these back in 96.”
Yoav Mordechai: We gave some to you for Balata 2 weeks ago. What do you need them for?
Atallah: Riot control. We want to avoid a situation where the security agencies may be forced to fire on unarmed civilians.
Never mind that tear gas canisters have proven that they can be just as deadly as live bullet rounds, the exchange also foreshadows a crackdown on Hamas’ social institutions in the West Bank.
PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat made his contempt for his rivals known in 2007, when he told the Belgian foreign minister Karel de Gucht, “I can’t stand Hamas or their social programs.”
"The way to defeat Hamas"
By September 17, 2009, Erekat was bragging to U.S. officials that the PA had complete control over “zakat” committees, or Muslim charities, in the West Bank, as well as the weekly Friday sermons.
“We have invested time and effort and even killed our own people to maintain order and the rule of law,” Erekat said. “The Prime Minister is doing everything possible to build the institutions. We are not a country yet but we are the only ones in the Arab world who control the Zakat and the sermons in the mosques. We are getting our act together.”
In 2007, Reuters reported that Fatah was “increasing pressure on ‘zakat’ charity committees that support the network of Islamic schools and health clinics which helped fuel Hamas's rise to power.” On one occasion, the news service reported, 20 gunmen stormed a dairy funded by such a zakat committee but were ultimately persuaded to leave.
At the time, Akram al-Rajoub, who headed the Preventive Security service in Nablus said, “There is absolutely no cooperation with Israel in our activities" but that claim is belied by the conversations documented in The Palestine Papers.
On February 11, 2008, Atallah presented the Israelis with a laundry list of actions the PA took against Hamas, and complained that Israeli actions in the West Bank city of Nablus the previous month were harmful. He was likelyreferring to the three-day incursion by the Israeli military, in which 40 Palestinians were injured and 20 detained. 70,000 residents of the city were placed under curfew.
“We made arrests, confiscated arms, and sacked security individuals affiliated with Hamas,” Atallah said, “but you keep on deterring our efforts, and this is what’s happening in Nablus.”
While security cooperation against Hamas and its institutions dominated some meetings, often Palestinian negotiators merely wanted to vent to their Israeli counterparts about their deep-seated desire to defeat their political opponents.
Hamas must not feel that it is achieving daily victories, sometimes with Israel and sometimes with Egypt, and Al Jazeera Channel praises these victories,” Ahmed Qurei, a senior Palestinian negotiator, told Livni on February 4, 2008.
“I hope Hamas will be defeated, not military I mean because we didn’t try this; we didn’t engage in a civil war. President Abu Mazen was wise enough not to give orders to Fateh members to use arms, otherwise, we’d have had many casualties.”
According to the Palestine Papers, for Fatah, the Annapolis process seems to have been as much about crushing Hamas as it was about ending Israel’s occupation and establishing an independent, Palestinian state.
“We continue with a genuine process,” Saeb Erekat confided to European Union Special Representative Marc Otte on June 18, 2008, “reaching an agreement is a matter of survival for us. It’s the way to defeat Hamas.”
PA selling short the refugees
Palestinian Authority proposed that only a handful of the nearly six million Palestinian refugees be allowed to return. At the Bourj el Barajneh refugee camp in southern Beirut, a centre for the elderly serves as an oasis from the overcrowded, filthy conditions outside its metal doors.