The response of many Israelis and Palestinians to "The Palestine Papers" that were exposed by Al-Jazeera has been that the leaked documents actually show that there is a partner on the Palestinian side.

These Israelis and Palestinians argue that the far-reaching concessions that the Palestinian Authority leaders were alleged to have made to Israel -- according to The Palestine Papers -- clearly indicate that Mahmoud Abbas, Saeb Erekat, Ahmed Qurei and Salam Fayyad are true partners.

The fact that the Palestinian Authority is prepared to make concessions and help Israel crush Hamas has long been a known secret to most Palestinians.

The first question to ask, however, is not whether Abbas and his associates are partners, but whether the Palestinian Authority leaders can deliver anything.

The other question that needs to be asked is whether Abbas and his negotiators even have a mandate to offer Israel any concessions.

It is no secret that most of the Arab governments do not represent their constituents, at least in regard to making peace with Israel. If Arab leaders seem to be more "moderate" in their views toward the Middle East peace process than their people, it is because these leaders have been telling Westerners what they like to hear.

Even if the Palestinian Authority may be a peace partner, what about the Palestinians?

Has anyone thought about asking Abbas and Erekat what the Palestinians living in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan think about their willingness to offer Israel major concessions?

The Al-Jazeera revelations have seriously embarrassed the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, mainly because they show that Abbas and his negotiators have been telling their people one thing and Israelis and Americans something completely different.

Abbas and his negotiators have been promising Palestinians that there would no concessions whatsoever on core issues such as Jerusalem and refugees. But, as The Palestine Papers have shown, their message to the Israelis, Americans and Europeans has been the exact opposite.

Now, in wake of the Al-Jazeera revelations, the Palestinian Authority leaders are trying to distance themselves from these statements. Now, Abbas and his negotiators have to prove to their people that they are not "traitors" who sold out to Israel.

True, Abbas and his team are partners to a peace agreement with Israel. And yes, they might even be willing , if the documents are to believed, to give up most of east Jerusalem and the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leaders even have long been conducting security coordination with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority has understandably, and perhaps justifiably, convinced some Israelis and many of its Western supporters that it is a partner for peace. Statements attributed to Abbas, Erekat and Qurei show that they have been saying all what many in Israel and in the West like to hear.

If anything, Al-Jazeera's sensationalist revelations show that Arab regimes are still afraid of telling their people the truth.

It is nice to hear Erekat and Qurei talk to Israel about giving up most of east Jerusalem: with such positions they can be described as true peace partners. But the question that needs to be addressed is not whether Abbas and Erekat are peace partners, but whether the majority of Palestinians would be willing to accept far-reaching concessions like the ones offered by the Palestinian Authority.

Related Topics:  Palestinian Authority  |  Khaled Abu Toameh receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free gatestone institute mailing list

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