The revelations about the conduct of the Middle East peace process made by al-Jazeera and the Guardian over the past few days have shocked people around the world, but they did not surprise the membership of Hamas. They simply confirm what many of us have been warning against for nearly two decades.
Negotiating peace on the basis of the Oslo accords was, right from the start, conducted by two unequal parties. The PLO representatives, the weaker of the two sides, had no real cards to bargain with and ended up offering concessions that gave away basic national Palestinian rights. Their main aim has been to remain in power, preserve their role in the process, and maintain the special status and privileges accorded to them as individuals in exchange for collaborating with the occupiers. Consequently they allowed the Israelis to use them as stooges and tools for the repression of the Palestinian people.
Not only do we know for sure that these documents are authentic, but their authenticity has been endorsed by a good number of officials from the PLO and Palestinian National Authority, including some former members of the negotiation team.
The Palestinian negotiators named and quoted in these documents have betrayed their people and the Palestinian cause. We are in no doubt that, as a result of these revelations, they have lost their credibility for good. It is unthinkable that the Palestinian people will ever approve any deal concluded with the Israelis by this team of negotiators, for they will always be suspected of selling out and of betraying the cause. The Palestinian people can never believe that what these individuals pledge in public reflects how they bargain or deal in private.
One cannot but conclude from this shameful episode in the history of our people that these negotiators were willing to make such unthinkable and unacceptable concessions because they simply lacked any genuine affiliation to the people they claimed to represent, or any belief in the cause on whose behalf they claimed to negotiate. In fact they were neither elected by the Palestinian people nor mandated by its elected representatives to engage in this process. The only mandate given them was the one emanating from the US-led world order that has always conspired against our people and sided with our oppressors.
The documents in question reveal how US officials attending negotiation sessions spoke as if they were members of the Israeli team. Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, offered to resolve the refugees’ problem by transferring some of them to Latin America. They also reveal how Britain’s MI6 supervised a project to combat Hamas and suppress other Palestinian groups that were critical of the peace process and opposed to the kind of concessions Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Qurei and Saeb Erekat were willing to make.
They were making offers that, had they been accepted by the Israelis, would have represented the biggest act of treason in the region’s history. Jerusalem, which is of great significance not only to the Palestinians and Arabs but also to Muslims worldwide, was offered to the Israelis as the biggest Yerushalayim in history, to use Erekat’s words. Israel would have had the right to annex all but one of the settlements built in East Jerusalem, and land swaps would have been agreed to enable the Israelis to keep huge illegal settlements across the West Bank. Palestinians dispossessed in 1948 and their descendants are treated as pawns in a chess game with proposals for the return of only a few thousand over a period of 10 years.
The documents prove that the Palestinian negotiators violated the national consensus achieved in 2006 when, in response to an appeal for national unity from Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, various Palestinian factions agreed on a political programme based on a full Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 lines, the dismantling of all settlements, and the right of return for all refugees. This right of return is both individual and inviolable. Hence what Erekat or his team-mates were offering to the Israelis in those meetings is completely rejected by all Palestinians.
The documents also reveal the extent of the security collaboration the Palestinian Authority was willing to engage in against fellow Palestinians. We in Hamas have constantly suffered as a result although the persecution has been by no means restricted to Hamas affiliates and supporters. The situation in the West Bank is most appalling thanks to the partnership created between the Israeli and Palestinian security services, with the supervision and help of the Americans and their European allies.
Our suspicion that the Palestinian Authority all along knew about and even conspired in the Israeli war on Gaza in late 2008 has now been confirmed by the documented testimony of both Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
As an immediate response to these revelations, we in Hamas have begun a series of communications and meetings with Palestinian factions and prominent personalities to discuss practical measures. It is our responsibility to regain the initiative in order to protect our cause and isolate those who have betrayed it.
Osama Hamdan, head of the Hamas international relations department.