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General News    H2'ed 1/25/11

The Palestine Papers -- Israel's peacemakers unmasked

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The second is the assumption that peace talks have fallen into abeyance chiefly because of the election nearly two years ago of a right-wing Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu. He has drawn international criticism for refusing to pay more than lip-service to Palestinian statehood.

The Americans' goal -- at least in the early stages of Mr. Netanyahu's premiership -- was to strong-arm him into bringing into his coalition Tzipi Livni, leader of the centrist opposition party Kadima. She is still widely regarded as the most credible Israeli advocate for peace. However, Ms. Livni, who was previously Mr. Olmert's foreign minister, emerges in the leaked papers as an inflexible negotiator, dismissive of the huge concessions being made by the Palestinians. At a key moment, she turns down the Palestinians' offer, after saying: "I really appreciate it."

The sticking point for Ms. Livni was a handful of West Bank settlements the Palestinian negotiators refused to cede to Israel. The Palestinians have long complained that the two most significant -- Maale Adumim, outside Jerusalem, and Ariel, near the Palestinian city of Nablus -- would effectively cut the West Bank into three cantons, undermining any hopes of territorial contiguity.

Ms. Livni's insistence on holding onto these settlements -- after all the Palestinian compromises -- suggests that there is no Israeli leader either prepared or able to reach a peace deal -- unless, that is, the Palestinians cave in to almost every Israeli demand and abandon their ambitions for statehood.

One of the Palestine Papers quotes an exasperated Mr. Erekat asking a US diplomat last year: "What more can I give?" The man with the answer may be Mr. Lieberman, who unveiled his own map of Palestinian statehood this week. It conceded a provisional state on less than half of the West Bank.

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (www.thenational.ae), published in Abu Dhabi

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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