Israel, negotiations and the benefits of secrecy


by Rumbold
23rd January, 2011 at 9:28 pm    

Al Jazeera in conjunction with Wikileaks, has revealed some of the secret offers being made in recent rounds of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. While there is a lot of interesting material in there, my focus is on the accusation that the releases will derail the peace process (such as it is), strengthen Hamas and weakened the Palestinian Authority.

It would be wrong to heap all the blame on the media for any subsequent problems. Israeli-Palestinian talks have been going on for decades with no lasting results, without any help from Wikileaks or Al Jazeera. There is also the argument that the leaks expose the intransigence of the Israeli negotiators, which should in theory allow pressure to be brought to bear on those deemed to be holding back a peace deal. The problem with the leaks lies in the reaction of extremists on all sides.

Many conflicts of this nature in recent history have been solved by negotiation (the others still continue or have been brutally crushed). Extremists in any group do not tend to like negotiation, because they know concessions will have to be made, so some times negotiations are begun by moderate leaders without the knowledge of their followers (such as with the IRA). This isn’t the case with Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, as they are public knowledge, but the general point still holds: that in any negotiation concessions need to be offered, usually ones which would infuriate extremists, so for the sake of a lasting settlement it is better if those concessions are offered behind closed doors, then any deal is presented to extremists as a fait accompli.

This is not a foolproof method by any means. But it does provide a basis for negotiation. In the future, will either side be willing to offer controversial concessions as a starting point if they believe that it is likely they will be leaked?
(Via Naadir Jeewa)

Sunny’s update: The leak has nothing to do with WikiLeaks. I’ve updated Rumbold’s post to reflect that.


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Filed in: Current affairs,Media,Middle East






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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Wikileaks, negotiations and the benefits of secrecy http://bit.ly/g6kwLA


  2. Alex Goldberg

    Yep – @sunny_hundal – think that your blog: Wikileaks, negotiations and the benefits of secrecy http://t.co/o3zd8BY has it about right


  3. Dandelion

    @sunny_hundal Don't let @robertsharp59 hear you tweet-blogging this http://bit.ly/g6kwLA


  4. Joel Braunold

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Wikileaks, negotiations and the benefits of secrecy http://bit.ly/g6kwLA -> Important and vital points




  1. Clarice007 — on 23rd January, 2011 at 9:40 pm  

    will either side be willing to offer controversial concessions as a starting point if they believe that it is likely they will be leaked?

    Not as long as they let these mysterious ‘extremists’ dictate their behaviour, no. This post is such a non-argument, I would have expected better from PP.

  2. Sarah AB — on 23rd January, 2011 at 9:53 pm  

    Rumbold – I assume you didn’t mean to put ‘Isreal’ rather than ‘Israel’ in the heading?

  3. Kulvinder — on 23rd January, 2011 at 11:39 pm  

    Actually i agree with Karma Nabulsi. All this exposed was that the peace process was a sham. There is no basis for negotiation as the Palestinians will never be able to concede enough to the Israelis. We have the admittance that Israel has, from the beginning, carved up the West Bank to make a state all but impossible. That Jerusalem and even the Haram al-Sharif aren’t enough.

    But what finally drives the nail in the coffin, for me anyway, is the lifting of the veil of righteousness that Israel is really like Europe or the ‘western’ world in the Middle East. One of ‘us’ against the barbarians.

    They’re negotiating the de-facto ethnic cleansing of their own citizens. But remember, the Iranians, who aren’t as far as im aware negotiating the expulsion of their Jewish population are evil and must be bombed.

  4. Sunny — on 24th January, 2011 at 12:09 am  

    Sorry, my mistake on the spelling.

    The Palestinian papers have nothing to do with WikiLeaks
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/23/story-behind-leaked-palestine-papers

  5. Sunny — on 24th January, 2011 at 3:40 am  

    Oh yeah, I disagree with this post :)

    As Kulvinder says – it exposed what a farce the ‘peace process’ was, and it was good that was finally revealed

  6. Refresh — on 24th January, 2011 at 3:41 am  

    Completely agree with Kulvinder.

    Rumbold,

    This leak was needed years ago. Edward Said was convinced Oslo was a sham. I felt it worth a go, but I was wrong. Peace at any price is no peace. Its appeasement.

    Clearly these leaks are becoming essential, raw unexpurgated facts are going to be the standard demanded by the court of global public opinion.

  7. Boyo — on 24th January, 2011 at 7:33 am  

    “There is no basis for negotiation as the Palestinians will never be able to concede enough to the Israelis.”

    I’m no expert on this (at least i admit it ;-) ), but what I read in the press said that the Israelis rejected it because it did not meet the Clinton accords, a carving up of the territory seen as the blueprint for peace.

    You’re entitled to your prejudices (and I personally would prefer a return to 1967 borders, sans settlements, before you line up with your usual Zionist tripe) but you may as well see them for what they are.

  8. AbuF — on 24th January, 2011 at 8:55 am  

    Err… these leaks expose a number of phenomena, many of which should come as no surprise whatsoever.

    These include the shocking revelation that negotiations between the PA and Israel include the use of *diplomatic language*, aka, people saying nice things about each other (without necessarily meaning the same). *sensational and shocking* things have been said by both sides, including the ludicrous comment from Abu Mazen that he would vote for Zippy (shurely in jest), to be placed in the context of Bibi once dubbing Arafat “his friend”. In all: diplomacy does not involve so much its statements being taken with pinches of salt, so much as great salt mines of the same.

    PA and Israel involved in minute and deep discussions about territory swaps – who would have thunk it? What on earth are these buggers playing at?!??!?! Nobody seems to have noticed that even discussions of the same implies mutual recognition of the legitimacy of each other’s claims – but also mutual recognition of the fact that such form the basis of any lasting peace in the region. Hey, let’s ignore this.

    Of course, the close connections between Al-Jazeera, al-Ikhwaan and Hamas have absolutely nothing to do with the desire to throw spanners in the works of the peace process. Perish the very thought.

  9. Rumbold — on 24th January, 2011 at 9:13 am  

    Apologies for the Wikileaks error. It was written in haste.

    Kulvinder et al:

    If negotiations are pointless, what is the alternative? And what about the point that any future offers are less likely to be made because of the fear of leaks?

    Clarice007:

    Not as long as they let these mysterious ‘extremists’ dictate their behaviour, no.

    What do you mean, mysterious? I mean the ones who want to drive the Jews into the sea and the ones who believe they have a God-given right to bulldoze the homes of Palestinians. Given the influence they exert, it is not unreasonable to argue that the have a major impact on the moderates.

  10. Arif — on 24th January, 2011 at 9:49 am  

    It would be interesting to know what we would have a Palestinian (or Israeli) negotiator offer in the interests of their constituency.

    How we interpret the true interests of our constituency will always be contested, by the constituents themselves as well as by well-meaning outsiders, and rightly so.

    Because there is no “true” interest – our interests are constructed. The process of construction can be more or less democratic in terms of how negotiators are selected. The process can also be more or less just in terms of how equally interests are valued for all those affected.

    Naturally a secretly constructed offer by negotiators selected by election losers and which offer ethnic cleansing as a fair solution will be contested on many counts.

    But the context may not allow the negotiator to offer anything better.

    Any negotiating postion based on substantive respect for individual Palestinian and Israeli rights would be rejected as undermining nationalist aspirations.

    Any position based on constructing interests in terms of international law has already been rejected by at least one side by their ongoing actions.

    Any position which cannot be physically enforced will apparently not endure.

    Any position which does not seem to offer more to the other side than they can achieve by aggression will be irrelevant.

    It is a question for negotiators between violent and non-violent ethnic cleansing. That is the bottom line that both sets of negotiators can perceive as offering more than the alternative.

    Sure, for Palestinians it is a concession of dignity, aspirations and hope in return for brute survival, but they have nothing else that Israel can’t take away from them at the drop of a hat in any case.

    It strikes me as a scandalous state of affairs, but that is how I see it.

  11. AbuF — on 24th January, 2011 at 9:54 am  

    Not just a scandalous state of affairs – but one largely collated in your febrile imagination, and constructed out of tropes largely derived from Hamas sources, it might seem, Arif.

  12. Arif — on 24th January, 2011 at 10:14 am  

    AbuF, what would you offer as a Palestinian negotiator? What would you see it as conceding and what would you see it as gaining?

  13. Kulvinder — on 24th January, 2011 at 11:14 am  

    I’m no expert on this (at least i admit it ), but what I read in the press said that the Israelis rejected it because it did not meet the Clinton accords, a carving up of the territory seen as the blueprint for peace.

    I have no idea what the ‘clinton accords’ are; assuming you mean the ‘clinton parameters’ the entire point of the leaks are that they show the Palestinians were willing to go over significant red lines in order to try to reach a solution. It was the Israelis who were unwilling to ‘resolve’ certain issues like Jerusalem/Haram al-sharif.

    You’re entitled to your prejudices

    And you yours. My main point was that the willingness of Israel to negotiate away its own citizens in order to accentuate its Jewishness was final proof, if it were needed, that Israel is not the bastion of western liberal democracy in the middle east that its supporters sometimes portray it as.

    But yeah fine we can discuss the irrelevant minutiae of the ‘peace process’ if you wish.

    Oh and ;) back.

  14. Kulvinder — on 24th January, 2011 at 11:24 am  

    If negotiations are pointless, what is the alternative? And what about the point that any future offers are less likely to be made because of the fear of leaks?

    I’ll be honest; i’m not sure what the alternative is.

    Its a bit like performing a rain dance you know isn’t working. On the one hand the final proof that your pointless rituals and elaborate showmanship are useless is refreshing; on the other i suppose its a valid point that at least you were trying to bring some rain.

    I can’t claim to have a solution to the problem i’m only pointing out the dance isn’t working.

    As for the leaks and future offers/concessions. I think these negotiations had been conducted in secret for far too long. Although i accept that every negotiator needs room to manoeuvre and having public scrutiny of every minor step is unhelpful; the public must have some insight into whats actually happening for it to be seen as legitimate.

  15. AbuF — on 24th January, 2011 at 12:34 pm  

    Kulvinder

    As a point of information, the Arabic name of Jerusalem is *not* (as you seem to think) “Haram al-Sharif”. It is al-Quds.

    Just so you know.

  16. Kulvinder — on 24th January, 2011 at 12:58 pm  

    I do know, my forward slash was meant to signify they were discussing Jerusalem and Haram al-sharif(or temple mount); not that they were synonymous.

  17. cronous81 — on 24th January, 2011 at 4:11 pm  

    Frankly this leak is likely to weaken the Palestinian position even further. It shows to the world and Israeli hawks in particular that the Palestinians are weakened to the point that they are willing to offer concessions for nothing in return. It will likely increase rightist pressure on Israel to be even more uncompromising. However, this event will probably be forgotten in few days by the international community (though not Israeli rightwingers), already it is being overtaken by the terror attacks in Moscow.

  18. AbuF — on 24th January, 2011 at 4:25 pm  

    Actually, Kulvinder, they are *not* discussing al-Haram ash-Sharif. It is controlled by the Waqf Committee, which answers (finally) to the PA. This is not a matter of debate, nor discussion.

    Both sides have somewhat more pressing issues at hand, in any case.

    Incidentally (not that, I am sure, you knew) the conflation of al-Quds with al-Haram ash-Sharif is a commonplace in Palestinian Islamist circles.

  19. MaidMarian — on 24th January, 2011 at 7:30 pm  

    I have to admit that I have no idea who the Guardian thinks it is helping with these leaks. They just seem to me to be an open invitation to all extremists in the region to dig in.

  20. joe90 — on 24th January, 2011 at 8:40 pm  

    The american administration also suggested the palestinian refugees which israel apparently says do not exist should live in chile or argentina lol.

    These leaks by the guardian do not make one iota of difference to the so called peace process, which israel have even boasted they derailed many times on purpose.

    At least the general public get to know what the bastards are playing at and blatantly lying through their teeth.

  21. Shamit — on 24th January, 2011 at 10:36 pm  

    Isn’t it funny those who lionise Wikileaks and leaks of this sort also shout at the top of their lungs about Andy Coulson and News of the World.

    Though they claim to be fighting for truth – none of these individuals (in the UK) wanted to find out the truth whether Ed Miliband was actually against the Iraq war as he claimed. All the other contenders said that the only person who was against the Iraq war was Dianne Abbott. But you did not see any truth must be told articles from mehdi Hasan or Liberal Conspiracy.

    Or JOhn Pilger – I guess when your guy perpetrates a fraud its okay -

    As for Wikileaks revelations – America came out looking good and the ones who did not look so good were the Middle Eastern leaders and Pakistan – but the story in the left wing press has been somehow America looked awful.

    Some sensible people in guardian figured that’s just going too far. But something that makes Israel look bad – how can Guardian not publish it?

    BBC and CNN are still saying they have not been able to confirm these documents are authentic but how does that stop from righteous activists claim Israel is in the wrong. Like Monbiot somehow conjured up the thought that Israel wanted Iran bombed even though Wikileaks revelations show something completely different.

    ********************************

  22. Shamit — on 24th January, 2011 at 10:44 pm  

    I obviously agree with Rumbold and I have been saying pretty much the same thing on record since Wikileaks lionisation began. First, let us be clear, so far neither BBC or CNN have been able to verify the authenticity of these documents. I trust BBC far more than I would ever trust the Guardian.

    However, in this particular case, most Palestinian negotiators have actually said these documents are not authentic.

    Their position actually has some support – in 2000 when Ehud barak was Israeli PM – Israel did concede a lot more than these documents suggest – unless everyone in the room was lying – Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Madeline Albright to Ehud barak to everyone – including Arafat.

    The question was about West Bank and the Green line borders – Barak also conceeded that in the first phase 63 settlements would have to go and 1% of Negev Desert would go to Palestine as Israel wanted to keep control of the road between jerusalem to dead sea.

    Barak also agreed that gaza and West Bank must be joined up and Israel proposed building an elevated highway – but this is where the stories start differing.

    The Palestinians claimed they were being offered only disconnected parts of West Bank which both the US and Israel negotiators claim were untrue.

    And there is much much more – but that would take half the night.

    Just a word of caution, the authenticity of these documents are still in doubt.

    **********************************************

    Kulvinder -

    The Oslo accord, driven by Rabin and Arafat, which gave Palestinians control of West Bank and Gaza, only happened because they were negotiated out of sight for two years and as Rumbold said, both sides came out to the White House and presented a united front.

    So your theory does not work and it has been proven many many many times – just like Adams and Mcguinneess would have been called sell outs when they met Blair in secret and N. Ireland peace process would have failed. And there are numerous other examples.

  23. Shamit — on 24th January, 2011 at 10:51 pm  

    And by the way Rabin died because of that deal – and before everyone says Israel does not want peace – you should read Rabin’s speech to the Israeli Parliament.

    I do not support Israel’s position and definitely not the settlement programme but I am not going to say they don’t want peace or a Palestine. Most sensible Israelis including Ehud barak (the most decorated soldier in the history of Israeli Armed Forces) know that peace can only come if they have a two state solution.

    But they do not trust Iran which controls or at least is the pay master for Hezbollah and Hamas.

    *****************************
    That brings to my next point – why did not Guardian or the righteous amongst us shout about how Hezbollah brought down the lebanese government because their members would be indicted for hariri’s assasination by the UN.

    And this is a UN declared terrorist group but that seems to be okay to our righteous brethren – just like it seemed okay to them that Hezboollah and Hamas glorified themselves by shedding blood from those they were supposed to protect.

    I guess they are not Israeli – so they deserve our support.

  24. KJB — on 24th January, 2011 at 10:55 pm  

    I’m not really sure what the point of your piece is, but I co-sign on what Kulvinder says.

  25. MaidMarian — on 24th January, 2011 at 11:29 pm  

    Shamit – Leave to one side for the moment the question of who and who did not agree with the PA positions. Isn’t the real question quite why the Palestinians felt the need to hide their negotiating stance from the rest of the world?

    My guess is that some in the region opposed to peace (Iran) and their proxies Hamas and Hezbollah would likely have gone gunning for any deal. Israel’s fears about Palestine may well be overstated, but I would not say the same for Iran.

    They can’t stand the thought of a Jewish state at peace with its neighbours, regardless of what – it would seem – the Palestinian leadership thinks on the point.

  26. turtle — on 24th January, 2011 at 11:29 pm  

    Am I alone in wishing that joe90 would take his illiterate drivel and assorted crayons with him and feck off back to whatever slime-infested Islamist blog-hole he emerges from far too frequently???

  27. MaidMarian — on 24th January, 2011 at 11:39 pm  

    And on a separate point – can anyone guess why it is that the Guardian seems to think that driving wedges between the Palestinians like this is a good idea?

  28. Shamit — on 25th January, 2011 at 12:04 am  

    Maidmarian –

    I agree with your thoughts on 25. Earlier, it was the Arab states but now its the fear of Iran that causes Israeli national security folks headaches.

    Here is a country whose President goes on record saying he wants to push the jews back to the sea denies holocaust and funds two terrorist organisations that targets Israel. One of them operates in Gaza strip and the other in Lebanon and both kill their own people with impugnity.

    Now if you were the Israeli Prime Minister – wouldn’t you worry about it too?

    and on 27: Guardian always seeks the truth and the last bastion of free press – everyone else is a sell out.

  29. Nadeem — on 25th January, 2011 at 10:32 am  

    I’m with ya Turtle.

  30. Kismet Hardy — on 25th January, 2011 at 10:37 am  

    I like Joe90. But I appreciate that’s a bit like Gray and Keys being defended by Larry Flynt…

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