Palestinian leadership demands independent probe into negotiation documents' credibility

22:04, January 24, 2011      

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The Palestinian leadership on Monday called for an independent commission to examine the credibility of documents that Al-Jazeera channel is publishing on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The committee should "study how deeply Al-Jazeera has penetrated into cutting sentences out of their context," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee.

Al-Jazeera said it has obtained more than 1,600 documents, maps and minutes of decade-long records of negotiations.

The Qatari news channel said that the PNA was ready to give up Jewish parts in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek as a future capital, including Jewish settlements there.

The documents also said that the Palestinian negotiators were ready to hand the compound in which Al-Aqsa mosque is situated to international control. The compound, known as Haram as-Sharif, is the third holiest shrine in Islam.

Abed Rabbo said Al-Jazeera launched "an organized campaign to distort the positions of the Palestinian leadership towards peace with Israel."

He also questioned the timing and aims of publishing the documents, especially as the Palestinian leadership resists international pressure to resume negotiations with Israel. The negotiations started in September but stopped weeks later, when Israel refused to extend a 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlement construction.

"We are not scared by any document," said Abed Rabbo in a press conference. "The Palestinian-Israeli negotiations are the most transparent, open and frank negotiations."

The "Palestine papers" quoted Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator, as saying that Israel would be given "the biggest Yerushalaim" in its history through a plan he drafted. Yerushalaim is the Hebrew name for Jerusalem. The leaked documents said that Erekat's plan include a demilitarized Palestinian state, symbolic number of refugees return home, and "unprecedented" land swap.

Abed Rabbo said the classified documents brought "some things that I've never heard of," slamming Al-Jazeera for not giving the Palestinian leadership the time to respond and refute the context of the documents.

The releasing of the documents come at a time in which the Palestinians struggle for gaining international condemnation of Jewish settlement activities from the United Nations Security Council. Abed Rabbo said Al-Jazeera was fueling the Israeli incitement against the Palestinians.

Moreover, Abed Rabbo attacked Qatari Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, calling on him to "reveal the nature of his country's relations with Israel and Iran."

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party decided to boycott Al-Jazeera, based on orders from Abbas. A statement by Fatah said that Palestinian officials, "from His Majesty to the youngest member or friend of Fatah" must not cooperate with Al-Jazeera's crews inside and outside the Palestinian territories.

Earlier on Monday, Islamic Hamas movement, Fatah's bitter rival, said the revelations by Al-Jazeera were "big political scandal."

The classified documents "drove the final nail in the Palestinian National Authority's coffin," said Mahmoud Zahar, a Gaza-based Hamas outspoken leader.

Zahar accused the PNA of "selling Jerusalem and giving up the right of return" of Palestinian refugees.

Hamas opposes the negotiations, which broke down in September after Israel refused to extend construction's halt in West Bank settlements.

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