Palestine Papers

Al Jazeera has released thousands of Palestinian documents covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the United States. It's a rare glimpse into the machinery behind the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. And we'll look at what it reveals about the industry that has grown up around the talks.



It's Wednesday, January 26th.

After policy reversals on health care, oil royalties, and balancing the budget led to declining personal popularity, Alberta premier Ed Stelmach says he is stepping down.

That is ... unless he changes his mind again.

This is The Current.

PART ONE

Palestine Papers - Reporters

We started off this item with a clip from Saeb Erekat. He's the senior negotiator with the Palestinian Authority. And he was talking about a report from the Arab news network Al Jazeera and the British newspaper The Guardian. The report details more than 1,600 Palestinian documents made public by Al Jazeera. It's the biggest leak in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The documents cover more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the United States. And they paint a picture of Palestinian officials willing to make more far-reaching concessions than they had ever talked about publicly. The documents have also granted a rare glimpse at the machinery behind the decades-old peace process. For more on what they reveal, we were joined by Ian Black. He's The Guardian's Middle East Editor. And he was in London, England.

Palestine Papers - Academic

The "Palestine Papers" - as they're being called - also reveal a lot about how big the peace process has become.

First, there are the negotiators. On the Palestinian side, for example, there is

the Negotiations Support Unit. It has a staff of 25 people, plus external consultants and field workers. Add to that the ministry workers, many of whom work full-time on negotiations.

Then there are the foreign governments. The numbers are hard to come by. But it is estimated that the United States and the European Union have poured Billions of dollars into the peace process. The U.S. has a Special Envoy for Middle East Peace. The EU is just one part of the Middle East Quartet that was set up to mediate the peace process. And the United Nations has about 20 agencies working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories ... many of them involved in diplomacy.

On top of that, there are the think tanks and non-governmental organizations and the thousands of people and millions of dollars that make them work. And, there has been an average of more than one international summit a year for the last 20 years each with delegations, technical committees, support staff and security.

One Palestinian negotiator told us that there's a standing joke which says that if you had an unoriginal idea to promote peace, scribbled it on a napkin, gave it to a western government and signed your support for a two-state solution you could get 100,000 dollars.

Sharmine Narwani says that these are all signs that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has become a self-sustaining industry that is actually getting in the way of peace. She is a senior associate at St. Anthony's College at Oxford University.

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