Trusted colleagues inform me that the cache of 1.600 leaked documents now known as the ‘Palestine Papers' came from three main sources: Palestinian nationalists who are opposed to Palestinian National Authority (PNA) policies and reject their role as negotiators; former members of the PNA who have defected due to differences with the leadership and have old scores to settle; and people who anticipated financial reward for their contribution.
While Palestinians reel with shock at the contents of confidential minutes, e-mails, memos and handwritten notes, the PNA's leadership is equally horrified at having been discovered courting Israeli and US officials and selling its countrymen down the line.
It should come as no surprise that the PNA is so porous. The organisation's internal affairs are chaotic and its leaders embarrassingly amateurish.
As countless commentators have pointed out, not one of the group currently brokering the future of Palestine — Mahmoud Abbas, Saeb Erekat, Ahmad Qorei, Yasser Abed Rabbo and Salam Fayyad — has a current mandate to do so. Mahmoud Abbas' presidential term, for example, expired on January 9, 2009, when he unilaterally re-elected himself!
Any notion that this desperation to cling to power was motivated by anything other than self interest, has now been extinguished.
The Palestine Papers reveal a gut-wrenching level of PNA collusion — against its own people — with Israel, the US and Britain. It is also clear that for PNA leaders the enemy is Hamas, not Israel.
Infamous for human rights abuses and imprisoning its rivals without trial, the PNA's security apparatus — we now discover — was founded on a blueprint commissioned by Tony Blair and developed by the British secret service, MI6, in 2004. Israel is close at hand to help: in a 2006 conversation with America's Keith Dayton, Erekat celebrated the PNA's ‘security liaison with Israel'.
At its most sinister, this unpalatable collaboration includes a casual approach to the murder of fellow Palestinians: documents from 2005 detail a discussion between Israeli defence minister, Shaul Mofaz and PNA interior minister, Nasser Yousuf about Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades leader Hassan Al Madhoun. "We know his address ... Why don't you kill him?" Mofaz asked.
Yousuf replied that ‘instructions' had been given but complains ‘you haven't offered anything'. In the event Madhoun was murdered by Israeli forces. In September 2009, Erekat told a US official that "we have killed our own people to ... establish one authority, one gun and the rule of law".
The documents reveal an incomprehensible attitude to Israel's winter 2008-09 onslaught (code-named Operation Cast Lead) in which 1,400 Palestinians — nearly half of them women and children — lost their lives.
First we discover that Israeli intelligence chief, Amos Gilad, alerted Abbas prior to the attack and met with no resistance. Then from WikiLeaks, we learn that on December 29, 2008, PNA security chiefs held a clandestine meeting with top Israeli military and intelligence officials: not, as we would have hoped, to angrily berate their bloodthirsty enemy, but to discuss the best way to handle anti-Israel protests in the West Bank. According to the US Embassy cable, "the two sides agreed to expedite coordination and exchange information on disturbances".
On October 2, 2009, Abbas blocked a UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution supporting the Goldstone Report. The resolution would have paved the way for a war crimes prosecution against the architects of ‘Operation Cast Lead' including Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni (then foreign minister).
Leaked minutes from a Washington meeting between Senator George Mitchell and Erekat suggest that the UNHRC vote was used as a bargaining tool: Mitchell promised to broker a resumption of the stalled peace process and to talk up the Palestinians' demands in exchange for Abbas calling for the vote to be deferred. It was during this meeting that Erekat enthusiastically insisted that "we want to help the Israelis".
The papers consistently portray a PNA more concerned with remaining in power than the welfare of fellow Palestinians. In 2008, it blocked the release of 450 Arab prisoners in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Qorei bluntly informed Livni that such a move would "make Hamas appear as a hero before the public and that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] gives speeches only".
Also in 2008, concerned that Israel's brutal siege of Gaza was being thwarted by Palestinians tunnelling along the Egyptian border, Qorei urged Livni to "occupy the [Philadelphi] crossing".
Six months before Livni personally oversaw ‘Operation Cast Lead', Qorei flattered the Kadima leader saying "I'd vote for you". The papers are littered with such sycophancy: Erekat frequently addresses Netanyahu by his pet name ‘Bibi'.
Yet the Israeli and US negotiators showed little respect for the PNA group. In 2008, the Israelis presented a map of proposed land swaps, but wouldn't let the Palestinians keep a copy. The sight of the then 73-year-old Abbas copying the map on to a paper napkin is truly painful.
The end of the Palestine Papers' depressing saga sees an increasingly desperate Palestinian team surrendering one key national position after another: it offers Israel nearly all of occupied east Jerusalem (Erekat cringe-makingly refers to it by its Hebrew name, Yerushalayim); it agrees to Israel annexing its illegal colonies and it limits the right of return to just 10,000 refugees. The Israelis scorn every offer and cold-bloodedly ask for more. Then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice expertly extinguishes the last flickerings of Palestinian pride with the suggestion that its refugees could be transferred to Latin America.
The PNA leaders and negotiators have completely discredited themselves and the Peace Process. As valiant protesters put their lives on the line for regime change in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen, Abbas and his men must realiee that the days of autocratic, oppressive and corrupt Middle Eastern regimes are numbered.
Abbas is making it known that he intends to resign in September — no doubt hoping that a miracle will occur in the intervening time to save him. The whole group should go immediately, but will probably cling to power until the last possible moment, unwilling to relinquish the material benefits and status they have become addicted to.
There can be no more negotiations between today's Israeli government and these fake Palestinian representatives. The Palestinian people have to start their struggle again in a spirit of national reconciliation and unity, never forgetting that they are an occupied people, resisting all the evils of Israeli occupation through civil disobedience and, if necessary, intifada.
The Palestine Papers represent a shameful history that should now be torn up.
Abdel Bari Atwan is editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.