News / Middle East

Palestinian Negotiator Says Leaks Threaten His Life

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, center, surrounded by Fatah supporters speaks during a rally in the West Bank town of Jericho, 25 Jan 2011.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, center, surrounded by Fatah supporters speaks during a rally in the West Bank town of Jericho, 25 Jan 2011.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says the al-Jazeera television channel is putting his life in danger by leaking documents alleging that he offered concessions during peace talks with the Israelis.

In an interview with the BBC released on Wednesday, Erekat admits that some of the leaked material has validity.  He initially had said the papers were lies.

Erakat says Palestinian leaders are investigating where the leaks originated. He vowed to take responsibility for the leaks if they came from his office.

The interview was published a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was welcomed by supporters in the West Bank.

It was his first trip home since al-Jazeera started leaking confidential documents that allege that Palestinian negotiators secretly offered concessions, including an agreement to cede almost all of occupied East Jerusalem to Israel.

Thousands of chanting supporters rallied at his headquarters in Ramallah Tuesday. Abbas said the rally was a positive response to the al-Jazeera documents, which he claimed were fake. He insists his peace overtures are on the "right path."

On Monday, Abbas said during a visit to Cairo that the proposal to cede almost all of East Jerusalem to Israel, which al-Jazeera reported to be from the Palestinian side, was actually an Israeli position.

A second group of documents released by the television channel quoted Abbas as saying it would be "illogical" to ask Israel to absorb 5 million refugees as part of a final peace deal.

The documents appear to contradict the Palestinians' public position that all refugees from the 1948-to-1949 war and their descendants have the right to return to Israel.

The leaked files alleged that Abbas privately acknowledged the return of even 1 million refugees would mean "the end of Israel" and does not seem practical.

Palestinian negotiators are said in the documents to have requested that Israel allow the return of 10,000 refugees a year for 10 years - a total of 100,000.

At another point, Palestinian negotiators were said to have agreed that only a token number of refugees, just 10,000, should return to Israel.

Israeli leaders say a mass resettlement is out of the question because it would undermine the state's Jewish majority.

A top aide to Abbas Monday accused the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, where al-Jazeera is based,- of consciously seeking to damage Palestinian interests. He said the report released by the Doha-based Arab satellite channel relies on out-of-context quotes, insinuations and outright fabrications.

Yasser Abed Rabbo said Qatar's emir gave "a green light" for a political campaign against the West Bank Palestinian leadership. Qatar has close ties to Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip. Hamas says the documents show that it is the true leader of Palestinians and has called the documents' revelations a betrayal.

The Qatari government bankrolled al-Jazeera when it launched in 1996 and is believed to still fund the station.

The leaked transcript of a June 2008 meeting between Palestinian, U.S. and Israeli officials said chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei proposed that Israel keep all but one of the major settlements it built in East Jerusalem after capturing that part of the city during the 1967 Middle East war.

The nearly 1,700 files cover an 11-year period from 1999 to 2010 and have been described by al-Jazeera as the largest leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The television service has shared the documents with Britain'sThe Guardian newspaper, which says it has verified most of them.

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