Monday, January 24, 2011
SAN DIEGO As I heard Morning Edition launch into a story this morning about diplomatic documents being leaked to the press, I assumed WikiLeaks was up to its old tricks. But no… it was Al Jazeera that got its hands on documents that showed the Palestinian Authority agreed to major concessions to Israel, and Israel still said “no deal.”
Stories like this raise the question of what happens when the press reports on conversations that diplomats would rather keep secret. I wrote about WikiLeaks releasing a bunch of U.S. diplomatic cables a couple of months ago. I thought the information revealed in those cables ranged from being “no surprise” to reassuring.
The Al Jazeera docs are different and potentially more consequential. They make both Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) look bad in a way that could have a real effect on Middle East negotiations. Israel looks bad because, while they claim to want peace, they come off as a county that won’t give up one acre of land to achieve peace. Ironically, it’s the PA that is desperate to deny the validity of the reports, which make Mahmoud Abbas look like a man who wants to give away the farm.
The Al Jazeera report is good journalism… assuming the validity of its leaked documents holds up. While secrecy is a real value to diplomacy, I can’t imagine any reasonable person arguing the status quo should continue in the talks over Middle-East peace. Today, peace seems even further away, Israel looks ever closer to becoming an Apartheid regime in the West Bank, and the Palestinians are driven further and further toward the radical intolerance of Hamas.
Thanks to these new revelations, maybe the U.S. will not cast another in its series of endless vetoes when the UN Security Council condemns Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Pressure will be applied to both sides and a two-state solution will cease to be the pipe dream it has been for years.
It will be very interesting to see the consequences of this story play out in the real world. It will also be nice to have the personality of Julian Assange not be the center of the discussion, now that Al Jazeera has had its own WikiLeaks moment.