On the first question, when one looks at the documents, which cover the period 1999-2010 (conspicuosly absent is 1993-1999), they describe a situation in which weak and desperate Palestinian leaders make enormous conceswsions and are faced by an impassible Israeli team saying "no" with the support of the United States. This shows the Palestinian Authority as a corrupt government betraying its people, the Israeli as no real partners in Peace making and the Americans as a definite pro-Israel bias that makes them invalid as "honest brokers". So what is the gist of these papers? : "The Peace Process is dead".
The reaction so far make clear some of the consequences of the leaks: According to the reactions:
a) Israel is not a credible Peace partner and only Palestinians were striving for Peace.
b) The Palestinian Authority and Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) in particular come accross as betraying their people and lying in order to stay in power, adding to the image of corruption they already have in the Palestinian street
c) The United States is not an Honest broker and they will always side with Israel.
d) It established the perception that, in the words of British journalist Karma Nabulsi, "The Peace Process is over, now lets begin again"
So why leak it now? and since these are all papers from the Palestinian Authority side, where is the Israeli version of events? The map that Al Jazeera used to illustrate the "land swap" proposed by the Palestinians is suspiciously close to the maps of the "Geneva Accords" that Yossi Beilin came up in negotiations with Palestinian Academics, a negotiation in which neither side had the power to speak for their own side. So why now? is there anything about the timing that can point to the origin of this leak?
The message of the papers is that the Peace process needs to be replaced by a different framework to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, transforming Israeli concessions to this point as the starting point for the next round and disqualifying the US as a broker in the process. When one considers the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to seek recognition for a Palestinian State at the UN next September, it is logical to become suspicious of this disqualification of a negotiated solution. It seems designed to support the unilateral actions of the Palestinian leadership.
But the Palestinian leadership is also disqualified by the papers, being shown as untrustworthy and even traitors. Mahmoud Abbas, Qureia and Erekat come accross as desperate people holding for their political life and willing to give away anything to survive. So how does this make sense?
The same papers state clearly that Abbas will not seek reelection and would like to retire, and in recent years there is another figure emerging as a leader: Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, chief architect of the recent economic renewal of the West Bank and the most logical successor of Abu Mazen. Interestingly enough, so far there has been no mention of Fayyad in connection with the so-called Palestinian papers.
The obvious beneficiaries of the papers appear to be Hamas, which can in theory claim to be untouched by these papers and truthfully state that they were always opposed to negotiations with Israel.
So what is going on? Here are some possible scenarios:
1) The PLO and the Palestinian Authority will change leadership, giving Fayyad the top position. Fayyad will then present the request for recognition of a Palestinian State within the 1967 borders of the West Bank and Gaza at the upcoming UN session of September 2011, probably linking it to the Saudi Peace proposal. The UN is also scheduled to host in that session Durban III, a conference that degenerated over the years into a Hate Fest of Israel, Jews and the West. Fayyad would come to this situation with stronger support from the Palestinian grassroots than Abbas ever enjoyed because of his own popularity for improving the economy of the West Bank. He will also talk to a far more sympathetic audience, ready to solve the problem bypassing an unwilling Israel and a biassed United States. Result: Israel is put in a difficult, almost untenable diplomatic isolation and may have to choose between acceptance or open warfare with a united Arab world supported by many Third World Countries.
2) The PLO is disqualified as a whole and is forced to call early elections in an effort to build bridges with Hamas. If the popular discontent gets to a point of disqualifying anybody remotely connected with the PA and the PLO, it would also disqualify even Fayyad, thus creating a power vaccum in which only Hamas can step in, giving them complete control of the territories. This would result in either Israeli re-invasion triggering international outrage and possibly an open war with the Arab world or at best a localized war that ends with Israel back in complete control and sets back the clock to 1993 with Israel now painted as a villain and Hamas demanding from the UN a Palestinian State. Result: Israel will have to make sweeping concessions to avoid war. Because of the more secular character of the Palestinian society in the West Bank, this looks like a less likely scenario, but probable nevertheless.
In both cases the rules of the game are changed and the US might decide not to use the Veto power against a unilateral declaration of Satehood by the Palestinians limiting itself to vote against but not blocking the results. Same might be truth for e UK Veto.
The UK recently announced that it will not recognize a Palestinian State that does not emerge from negotiations with Israel and implied they would use their Veto power. Should the scenarions described above prove to be truth, this would explain why the leak of Al-Jazeera was shared with the Guardian rather than other paper; it would be a way to increase pressure on the British government to stand by during the lynching of Israel at the UN next September.
I'm writing this blog on Monday, January 24th, and I hope that by the end of the week I will be forced to erase it because of new evidence, but so far it looks like a master move by the Palestinians in the international chessboard of disinformation.