The Palestinian Papers


More than 1,600 internal documents recording the details of Middle East peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine have been published by Al Jazeera and the Guardian.

Today’s news reports in Al Jazeera and the Guardian have sent shock waves around the world. Some Palestinian leaders have already challenged some of the claims that have been made and, like most other people, I am in no position to know how far the “Palestine Papers” give a comprehensive picture of what has gone on during meetings between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

However, even the most sceptical reader must conclude that the papers blow a huge hole in Israel’s claims that, in the Palestinians, they don’t have a partner for peace. Nor can they continue to say that the Palestinians have been unwilling to compromise on key issues in order to achieve peace. The papers also reveal persistent intransigence and arrogance on the Israeli side and an unwillingness by the international community to do anything about it.

Tensions were already growing across the Middle East before today’s news and it will not necessarily take much to spark a chain reaction that could have serious consequence for the region and for the wider world. It is understandable that anger is widespread in Palestine today. But I would urge the different Palestinian political parties to remember that reconciliation between them is as important today to securing justice for the Palestinian people as it was yesterday.

Likewise it is time for Israel to recognise that peace will never come from denying Palestine the rights it demands for its own people, and to act accordingly.

And there is a clear message here for the international community – including our own government, the EU and the USA. Warm words about peace processes mean very little when illegal settlement building in the West Bank undermines any realistic prospect of achieving a viable two state solution, when Gaza remains a giant prison for over one and a quarter million people and when Israel’s laws towards its own Palestinian citizens and those living the West Bank increasingly take on the character of Apartheid.

If we are serious about upholding human rights and achieving the lasting peace that is vital for global security, Israel is no more above international law than any other country. Here in the EU, we should use the leverage our own trade agreements with Israel to ensure they understand that there are consequences to their actions.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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