Palestine Papers: Why I blew the whistle

The mislabeled “peace talks” were instrumental in creating divisions amongst Palestinians, compelling me to speak out.

palestine papers
The Palestinian house key is the symbol that represents collective memory of the Palestinian diaspora [Getty]

In Palestine, the time for national reconciliation has come. On the eve of the 63rd commemoration of the Nakba, 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 mislabelled “peace process” caused deep consternation amongst Palestinians and in the Arab world. Covering more than ten years of talks (1999-2010) between Israel and the PLO, these “Palestine Papers” illustrate the tragic consequences of a highly inequitable and destructive political process grounded on the assumption that the Palestinians could effectively negotiate their rights and achieve self-determination while enduring the hardship of the Israeli occupation.

Since my name was 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 motivations. I have always acted in fact 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 same 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.

“The peace process is a spectacle, a farce, played to the detriment of Palestinian reconciliation, at the cost of the bloodshed in Gaza.”

Ziyad Clot in Il n’y aura pas d’Etat palestinien (There will be no Palestinian State)

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 capitals. Far from enabling a negotiated fair end of the conflict, the pursuit of the Oslo process has deepened Israeli segregationist policies and justified the tightening of the security control imposed on the Palestinian population as well as its geographical fragmentation. Far for 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, proved to be instrumental in creating and aggravating divisions amongst 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 7 million-Palestinian refugees. My experience over those 11 months spent in Ramallah confirms in fact that the PLO, given its structure, was not in a position to represent all Palestinian rights and interests.

After I resigned, I believed I had a duty to inform the public of the most alarming developments of the Israeli-Palestinian talks. These talks were unfair, misleading and became unsustainable. 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.

Shortly after the Gaza war, I started to write about my experience in Ramallah. In my book published in France in September 2010 under the disillusioned title “Il n’y aura pas d’Etat palestinien” (There will be no Palestinian State Ed. Max Milo), 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.” Therefore, in full conscience and independence, I later accepted 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 essential and justified by the public interest of the Palestinian people. I had no doubt at that time that I had a moral, legal and political obligation to proceed accordingly. My conviction and motives have not been altered since. 

Today, I am relieved that this first-hand information is available to the Palestinian people scattered 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 the “peace process” framed according to the exclusive conditions of the occupying power lead to disastrous 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 future in common. The path to Palestinian self-determination will require the participation of all, in a renewed political platform.

Ziyad Clot is a French lawyer of Palestinian descent and author of “Il n’y aura pas d’Etat palestinien” Ed. Max Milo (There will be no Palestinian State). He was a legal adviser in the Annapolis negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.