How were the peace negotiation documents leaked? Why now, and by whom? British newspaper The Guardian, which cooperated with Al Jazeera in publishing the papers, illustrated the tensions between Palestinian negotiating elements in an attempt to outline the reasons why the information was leaked without exposing the leakers.
The 1,600 confidential documents which were leaked to Al Jazeera cover 10 years of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians from the failure of the 2000 Camp David peace summit to private discussions last year involving senior officials and politicians in the Obama administration.
The British paper said that most of the documents record talks held in recent years, prior to the Annapolis Peace Conference in late 2007. The documents, memos and transcripts were drawn up by the Palestinian negotiation support unit (NSU), which has been the main technical and legal backup for the Palestinian side in the negotiations. Other documents pertain to negotiations held between the Palestinian Authority and US and British security apparatuses.
The Guardian explained that the documents were leaked over a period spanning months from a number of sources.
The British newspaper presented some of the documents to various elements who were involved in the peace talks as well as diplomatic and intelligence elements to check their reliability.
The NSU is a Ramallah-based official part of the PLO and works under Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat. It receives funds from the UK and aided by Palestinian-American elements.
The newspaper noted that in the case of one-to-one talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders – especially between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert – NSU officials were not present, but reports on the outcome of the encounters were often given later to the unit and records made.
The British paper noted three key figures: Arab-American lawyer Zeinah Salahi; French-Palestinian lawyer Ziyad Clot, author of a book about the negotiations titled "There will be no Palestinian state"; and Rami Dajani, who works for Tony Blair in his role as the Middle East quartet's envoy.
The Guardian noted that the role of the NSU in the negotiations has caused tensions among PA leaders and officials. Meanwhile, discontent among NSU staff grew as negotiations were increasingly seen to have failed, and the Ramallah-based PA leadership lost its legitimacy. This caused many to leave the NSU. There has also been widespread discontent in the organization at the scale and nature of concessions made in the talks.
The newspaper said that some Fatah leaders are likely to accuse al-Jazeera of having an anti-PA agenda, which they believe will benefit their Hamas rivals, backed by Iran — as shown in critical comments about the TV station in the documents themselves. It stressed that the documents have been redacted to remove details such as email addresses, phone numbers or other information that could identify those who leaked them.
'Bulk of papers authenticated'
The Guardian's editor, Alan Rusbridger, said that the publication of the papers was an effort to ensure the wider availability of their content.
"The Guardian has authenticated the bulk of the papers independently, but we have not sought or been given access to the sources of the documents," he said.
He also noted, "In the course of working with the documents over several weeks, the Guardian has formed its own judgments about specific stories and retained full editorial control of its coverage."
Jonathan Weber contributed to this report
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook