New leak: Palestine stalled Gaza war report on US request

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat admitted that some of the documents were authentic.

Tel Aviv/Ramallah: More minutes of Palestinian-US meetings, released by al-Jazeera on Wednesday, show the Palestinian Authority - under pressure from Washington - agreed to withdraw a UN resolution backing a damning report on Israel`s Gaza war.

The report by a fact-finding mission headed by former South African judge Richard Goldstone ruled that not only Israel, but also Hamas, committed war crimes during a devastating three-week offensive in Gaza in the winter of 2008-09.

It was the fourth - and apparently last - night in which the Qatari satellite channel published a selection from 1,684 classified documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, obtained from an unnamed source.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, the official who featured much in the minutes of meetings with Israeli and US officials, admitted on Wednesday some of the documents were authentic.

"One, there are some true things. Two, there are some half truths. And third, there are total creations, fantasies," he said in an interview with the BBC from Ramallah, on returning from a trip to Egypt.

He stressed: "These are not official documents. We don`t have agreements with Israel. These are notes", implying some of the content could be inaccurate.

Responding to the suspicion the notes and transcripts were leaked by an employee in his Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department, Erekat said: "If these documents came, were stolen from this office, I and I alone will hold the responsibility."

He argued that documents detailing discussions on sensitive negotiating issues such as borders and refugees were not surprising and contained "public knowledge."

State Department spokesman PJ Crowley told reporters on Wednesday in Washington that he would not comment on the leaked documents, but reaffirmed that the US believed the report was unfair and could complicate progress in peace negotiations.

"Our view was well stated at the time, that we did not think that the Human Rights Council was the appropriate forum to consider the issues in the Goldstone report," Crowley said.

Al-Jazeera charged on Wednesday that the latest of the Palestine Papers published Wednesday revealed that the PA "apparently sacrificed" a potential victory for the victims of Israel`s Gaza war, "in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the US."

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in late 2009 already admitted he had asked for a delay of a UN vote to endorse the Goldstone report, and as a result suffered a storm of unprecedented domestic criticism.

The Qatari satellite channel, however, claims that the transcripts of a September 24, 2009, meeting at the US Mission to the UN and an October 2, 2009, meeting at the US State Department in Washington provide more details on how Abbas` aides accepted the US request to postpone the vote and what they were offered in return.

In the October meeting, US envoy George Mitchell promised chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that in exchange for a deferral of the UN Human Rights Council vote, the US would "explicitly repeat its position on Jerusalem".

Erekat and Abbas were said to have accepted a US document, stating the PA would "help to promote a positive atmosphere" conducive to peace negotiations and "refrain from pursuing or supporting any initiative" in international bodies "that would undermine that atmosphere".

Minutes of an October 1, 2005, meeting in Tel Aviv show Israel`s former defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, discussing with a Palestinian official the assassination of a Gaza fighter of the armed wing of Abbas` Fatah party, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hassan al-Madhoun, who allegedly was planning an attack on a Gaza-Israel border crossing.

"We know his address and (the head of the Preventive Security organization in Gaza) Rasheed abu Shabak knows that. Why don`t you kill him? Hamas fired (rockets) because of the elections, and this is a challenge to you and a warning to Abu Mazen (Abbas)," Mofaz is quoted as saying.

Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Yousef is quoted as replying: "We gave instructions to Rasheed and will see."

Armed men, believed by locals to belong to the Palestinian Authority security forces, attacked the studios of a television station Wednesday in the West Bank which was recording an interview for al-Jazeera with a PA critic. The men arrived at the Nablus offices of Palmedia, a privately owned station, and smashed furniture and equipment, said the locals.

A similar raid occurred Monday on a Ramallah office of al-Jazeera.

The PLO Executive Committee, after meeting Wednesday in Ramallah, accused al-Jazeera of plotting to topple the Palestinian leadership.

"The purpose of al-Jazeera reports` is to rupture Palestinian unity ... with the goal of bringing about an alternative leadership to the PLO," charged Yasser Abed Rabbo, a PLO official, reading from a statement.

Abbas himself, calling Israeli President Shimon Peres to offer his condolences for the passing of Peres` wife, vowed that he would not allow the leaks to "kill" the peace process.


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