The Palestine Papers

It Takes Two to Tango

According to Bettina Marx, the so-called "Palestine Papers" published by Al-Jazeera and the British broadsheet The Guardian are a huge embarrassment for both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority

According to Bettina Marx, the so-called "Palestine Papers" published by Al-Jazeera and the British broadsheet The Guardian are a huge embarrassment for both Israel and the Palestinian National Authority

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu at the Middle East summit in New York in September 2009 (photo: AP)
Middle Eastern tango partners: leaked papers have revealed what went on behind the scenes in the peace process

​​When American and European officials travel to Tel Aviv, Israeli leaders explain the standstill in negotiations with the Palestinians by arguing that "we have no partner for peace." This oft repeated claim explains the Israeli public's decreasing interest in the peace process.

However, documents published by Al-Jazeera and the British newspaper The Guardian contradict the old Israeli claim. Apparently, it is the Palestinians who have no partner for peace. Their concessions were wiped off the table by Israeli negotiators as insufficient.

Bordering on self-abandonment

Even the Olmert–Livini government, considered moderate by the international community, was not satisfied with Palestinian offers. The readiness of the Palestinian delegation to forego justified demands was so far-reaching that it bordered on self-abandonment.

Al-Jazeera logo
Uncomfortable truths: Al-Jazeera and The Guardian have published roughly 1,600 secret documents about the Middle East peace process

​​They were prepared to forego the withdrawal of Israel to its 1967 boundaries. Moreover, they offered a compromise in which they would accept most of the Jewish quarters in the old city of East Jerusalem even though much of that area was built on land taken from Palestinians.

Yet the Israeli government said "No" to everything. It wasn't enough for them. And on top of everything else, they wanted the Palestinians to drop their demand that the large settlements in the West Bank be cleared. But that would have meant that there would be no contiguous Palestinian state capable of sustaining itself.

The Israelis weren't ready to give an inch on their most far-reaching demands. The documents made public by Al-Jazeera support those who question Israel's readiness to seek peace.

But it's not just Israel that has been publicly disgraced. The Palestinian leadership doesn't fare much better. They did not represent the vital interests of their own people. In secret, without informing the public, they were ready to negotiate away the just demands of the Palestinian people.

Collaborator and helper

Photo montage of Jerusalem and Saeb Erekat (source: dpa/AP/DW)
According to Al-Jazeera, the Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat drew up a list of settlements in East-Jerusalem that the Palestinian National Authority was willing to do without

​​As they have consistently done since the Oslo Peace Process, the Palestinian leadership allowed itself to be degraded as a collaborator and helper of the occupying power.

The leading Palestinian negotiators tried to curry favour with Israeli politicians to an embarrassing extent. They tolerated Israel's merciless advance against the Gaza Strip. And for decades they have accepted Israel's violations of international law.

"It takes two to tango" is another favourite phrase used by Israeli politicians to point out Palestinian obligations. That's true. And in the Middle East two partners do indeed tango: a narrow-minded, arrogant and unmoveable Israeli occupying government and a weak and subservient Palestinian leadership.

Bettina Marx

© Deutsche Welle 2011

Editor: Aingeal Flanagan/

Related Topics
In submitting this comment, the reader accepts the following terms and conditions: reserves the right to edit or delete comments or not to publish them. This applies in particular to defamatory, racist, personal, or irrelevant comments or comments written in dialects or languages other than English. Comments submitted by readers using fantasy names or intentionally false names will not be published. will not provide information on the telephone. Readers' comments can be found by Google and other search engines.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.