By Ziyad Clot
This commentary was published in The Guardian on 14/05/2011
In Palestine, the time has come for national reconciliation. On the eve of the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba – the uprooting of Palestinians that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948 – this is a long-awaited and hopeful moment. Earlier this year the release by al-Jazeera and the Guardian of 1,600 documents related to the so-called peace process caused deep consternation among Palestinians and in the Arab world. Covering more than 10 years of talks (from 1999 to 2010) between Israel and the PLO, the Palestine papers illustrated the tragic consequences of an inequitable and destructive political process which had been based on the assumption that the Palestinians could in effect negotiate their rights and achieve self-determination while enduring the hardship of the Israeli occupation.
My name has been circulated as one of the possible sources of these leaks. I would like to clarify here the extent of my involvement in these revelations and explain my motives. I have always acted in the best interest of the Palestinian people, in its entirety, and to the full extent of my capacity.
My own experience with the "peace process" started in Ramallah, in January 2008, after I was recruited as an adviser for the negotiation support unit (NSU) of the PLO, specifically in charge of the Palestinian refugee file. That was a few weeks after a goal had been set at the Annapolis conference: the creation of the Palestinian state by the end of 2008. Only 11 months into my job, in November of that year, I resigned. By December 2008, instead of the establishment of a state in Palestine, I witnessed on TV the killing of more than 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli army.
My strong motives for leaving my position with the NSU and my assessment of the "peace process" were clearly detailed to Palestinian negotiators in my resignation letter dated of 9th November 2008.
The "peace negotiations" were a deceptive farce whereby biased terms were unilaterally imposed by Israel and systematically endorsed by the US and EU. Far from enabling a negotiated and fair end to the conflict, the pursuit of the Oslo process deepened Israeli segregationist policies and justified the tightening of the security control imposed on the Palestinian population, as well as its geographical fragmentation. Far from preserving the land on which to build a state, it has tolerated the intensification of the colonisation of the Palestinian territory. Far from maintaining a national cohesion, the process I participated in, albeit briefly, was instrumental in creating and aggravating divisions among Palestinians. In its most recent developments, it became a cruel enterprise from which the Palestinians of Gaza have suffered the most. Last but not least, these negotiations excluded for the most part the great majority of the Palestinian people: the seven million Palestinian refugees. My experience over those 11 months in Ramallah confirmed that the PLO, given its structure, was not in a position to represent all Palestinian rights and interests.
Tragically, the Palestinians were left uninformed of the fate of their individual and collective rights in the negotiations, and their divided political leaderships were not held accountable for their decisions or inaction. After I resigned, I believed I had a duty to inform the public.
Shortly after the Gaza war I started to write about my experience in Ramallah. In my 2010 book, Il n'y aura pas d'Etat Palestinien (There will be no Palestinian State), I concluded: "The peace process is a spectacle, a farce, played to the detriment of Palestinian reconciliation, at the cost of the bloodshed in Gaza." In full conscience, and acting independently, I later agreed to share some information with al-Jazeera specifically with regard to the fate of Palestinian refugee rights in the 2008 talks. Other sources did the same, although I am unaware of their identity. Taking these tragic developments of the "peace process" to a wider Arab and western audience was justified because it was in the public interest of the Palestinian people. I had – and still have – no doubt that I had a moral, legal and political obligation to proceed accordingly.
Today, I am relieved that this first-hand information is available to Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory, in Israel and in exile. In a way, Palestinian rights are back in their holders' possession and the people are now in a position to make enlightened decisions about the future of their struggle. I am also glad that international stakeholders to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can access these documents. The world can no longer overlook that while Palestinians' strong commitment to peace is genuine, the fruitless pursuit of a "peace process" framed according to the exclusive conditions of the occupying power leads to compromises which would be unacceptable in any other region of the globe.
Finally, I feel reassured that the people of Palestine overwhelmingly realise that the reconciliation between all their constituents must be the first step towards national liberation. The Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians in Israel and the Palestinians living in exile have a common future. The path to Palestinian self-determination will require the participation of all in a renewed political platform