Over the past two decades, Palestinians have sat around the “negotiating table” on numerous occasions with successive Israeli governments and with a stated view of achieving a negotiated resolution to the intractable Palestine-Israel conflict. For years, Israel has claimed that the persistent failure of this so-called peace process was the result of Palestinian intransigence and of Israel having no reliable “partner for peace”. However, an independently authenticated cache of confidential documents, records, contemporaneous notes and transcripts of private meetings between the two sides leaked in 2011, revealed a very different picture.
Known as the Palestine Papers, the documents provide an extraordinary and unprecedented insight into a decade of peace negotiations, exposing them as a process of gradual subjugation and conspiracy. They revealed that Palestinian negotiators were willing to make concessions on a scale inconceivable to the average Palestinian and, moreover, they highlight the weakness, desperation and humiliation of those negotiators in the face of unyielding Israeli indifference and US bias.
Following the 1948 War and the establishment of the state of Israel in historic Palestine, three quarters of a million Palestinians were driven out of their homes and forced into exile. During the 1967 War between Israel on one side, and Egypt, Jordan and Syria on the other, a second wave of refugees was created and the remainder of the land of Palestine was occupied militarily by Israel. A year after that, Israel began establishing illegal Jewish colonies on that land. The Palestinian refugees have never been allowed to return to their land, despite UN resolutions reaffirming their right to do so.
The “peace process” is the term used to describe the endless Middle Eastern diplomacy that has followed these wars aimed at resolving the conflict and establishing an independent Palestinian State. It refers to the gradualist, US-led approach predicated upon the belief that a genuine and durable solution can only be achieved through direct negotiations with an emphasis on the process of peace rather than its actual achievement.
In 1979 and 1994, Israel signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan respectively. Nevertheless, conflict continues to rage between Israel and the Palestinians. The difficult nature of this core conflict stems from a range of “final status” issues which include differing definitions of what Palestinian sovereignty would entail; the future status of Jerusalem; the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes; the issue of settlements and state borders; and the allocation of water resources.
According to various UN Security Council Resolutions, both Israel’s settlement policy and its occupation of Palestinian territory are illegal under international law. Resolution 446 states that settlements constitute a serious impediment to the achievement of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.
It has been a long and widely held belief that the peace process is a ruse intended to provide cover for the open-ended occupation, settlement and systematic confiscation of Palestinian territory. The Palestine Papers provided further, irrefutable proof of this.