World Citizen: What ‘Palestine Papers’ Reveal About the Peace Process

The cache of documents known as the "Palestine Papers" have created much turmoil among Palestinians and subjected some of the best-known officials of the Palestinian Authority to a withering wind of criticism. The papers, 1,700 files of correspondence about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, were reportedly leaked to the Arab-language Al Jazeera television network by unknown individuals. They have appeared in the Guardian and on Al Jazeera's English-language Web site, where they were portrayed as evidence that Palestinian leaders betrayed their people by making huge concessions to Israel. But what the documents and the reaction to them really show is something quite different.

To begin with, not everyone believes the documents are authentic. Palestinian officials have called them "fakes," and some in Israel have said they are filled with inaccuracies. Others point to the selective nature of the releases, arguing the papers paint a deliberately distorted picture.

But as anyone who has followed the peace process closely knows, there is little that is really new in the files. Practically every detail painted as a shocking concession has been part of the agreed baseline of a peace deal whose rough outlines have been known since President Bill Clinton first presented a formula for peace. In fact, most of the "shocking" concessions had already been signed on to by Palestinian negotiators as far back as 2000.

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