Palestinians: al-Jazeera's Palestine Papers "lies and half-truths"
Palestinian officials Monday questioned the authenticity of documents published by al-Jazeera, which the Qatari television channel claims show Palestinian negotiators offering Israel "unprecendented" concessions over occupied East Jerusalem, DPA reported.
Al-Jazeera announced late Sunday that over the last several months it has been given unhindered access to nearly 1,700 confidential documents, including memos, emails, maps, minutes of private meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators and US mediators, and even power point presentations, dating from 1999 to 2010.
Calling the documents "the largest-ever leak" related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it began publishing part of them late Sunday and says it plans to release all by Wednesday.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, in an interview with the al-Ayyam daily from Cairo, said the documents contained "lies and half truths."
"What is the reason behind the timing of this report and in whose interest is it?" he asked.
Al-Jazeera has said that because of the sensitive nature of the documents, it will not reveal the source or detail how they came into the channel's possession.
"We have taken great care over an extended period of time to assure ourselves of their authenticity," it said.
The German Press Agency dpa was unable to verify independently whether the documents were real.
They are seen as highly damaging to the Palestinian Authority and moderate President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior negotiators, who already suffer criticism from hardliners within Palestinian society and the Arab world, not least from their arch-rival, the radical Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza.
Among others, al-Jazeera quotes the minutes of a June 15, 2008 meeting in Jerusalem with former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, former Israeli negotiator and foreign minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian premier Ahmed Qureia and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
The minutes quote Qureia as proposing tha Israel annex all of its settlements in annexed East Jerusalem except Har Homa, known to the Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim.
Erekat, according to the minutes released by al-Jazeera, went on to list the settlements the Palestinian Authority was willing to concede: French Hill, Ramat Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo and Talpiot.
In an October 2009 meeting, Erekat also allegedly proposed a geographical division of Jerusalem's historic, walled Old City, with control of the Jewish Quarter and "part of the Armenian Quarter going to the Israelis.
Qureia, also speaking to al-Ayyam, denied the Palestinians ceded areas in East Jerusalem and the Old City, saying the government of former premier Ehud Olmert refused to discuss Jerusalem "in the first plance" because that could bring down his coalition.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Secretary General Yasser Abed Rabbo, speaking to Voice of Palestine Radio on Monday, accused al-Jazeera of having a political agenda and of taking some of the information out of context in an obvious "incitement" style.