NEW YORK, Jan. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East has carefully reviewed the "Palestine Papers," which Al Jazeera says are Palestinian Authority documents memorializing a decade of Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. If these documents are authentic, they offer significant clues to one reason why the process has thus far failed.
Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Fair Witness National Director, says "What the documents from the post-Annapolis talks reveal is that members of the respective negotiating teams shared pragmatic talk about borders, Jerusalem and refugees. While there was not complete agreement on core issues, there was hope of reaching a compromise. A 'Palestine Paper' dated August 31, 2008, memorializes Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's peace proposal package. But there is no indication that Palestinian President Abbas ever came back with a counteroffer."
The "Palestine Papers" reflect claims about an alleged counteroffer, but no evidence that one was ever relayed to Olmert. A December 14, 2008 memo shows Saeb Erekat telling Israeli negotiator Udi Deckel that the Palestinian counteroffer had been 1.9%. It appears, however, that 1.9% was a number Palestinian negotiators had been discussing with the Israeli negotiators prior to the Olmert offer. And, as Deckel points out, "discussions on territory" between negotiators do not constitute a leader's response to a comprehensive peace offer.
An internal Palestinian document reveals that Abbas never intended to respond to the offer at his September 16, 2008 meeting with Olmert, which he regarded as merely "ceremonial." A memo drafted in preparation for that meeting states:
In order to avoid the blame game, the President [Abbas] today is going with a positive attitude, where he will ask more questions from Olmert on his offer, and he will tell him that the Palestinians will respond later.
There is no record of a subsequent response from Abbas.
Rev. Thomas Prinz, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Leesburg, Virginia, notes that "Talk amongst negotiators is very different from an actual peace proposal agreed upon by leaders."
Rev. Dr. Peter A. Pettit of Muhlenberg College adds "If the 'Palestine Papers' are authentic, the post-Annapolis talks were essentially a repeat of Camp David. Palestinians and Israelis seemed not too far apart when the negotiators met -- but when a comprehensive deal was actually put forward the Palestinian leader walked away."
Rev. James Loughran, S.A., Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute says "Many commentators are blaming Israel for rejecting peace in 2008, but the 'Palestine Papers' provide no basis for such a conclusion. At this point we urge the parties to return to the negotiating table and work out a two-state solution."
SOURCE Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East