"The things they conceded are precious to us," said a Palestinian woman who was shocked at the revelations concerning Jerusalem. "They had no right to tamper with our heritage."
Mr. Erekat and his predecessor as chief negotiator, Ahmed Qurei, tried hard last evening to backtrack from the revelations.
"Many parts of the documents were fabricated, as part of the incitement against the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership," Mr. Qurei said.
But Mr. Erekat, himself, has boasted to some groups of the kind of offer the Palestinians were prepared to make, as well as of the concessions the Olmert government was willing to offer.
Indeed, Mr. Olmert has said he offered the Palestinians a state in the Gaza Strip and about 95 per cent of the West Bank, with territorial swaps to make up the difference, including a corridor to link the West Bank and Gaza. In Jerusalem, he said, he suggested the same international arrangement outlined Sunday by Al Jazeera for the holy site and division of the Arab and Jewish sections.
According to the quoted documents, the Palestinian negotiators wanted the Israeli land given to them to include a section close to the Green Line where many of Israel's minority Arab citizens live.
Mr. Olmert said the land swap would be for territory along the length of the West Bank but would not include the sections where Arab Israelis live.
Highlights from the leaked transcripts of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
June 15, 2008
Meeting in Jerusalem with Condoleezza Rice, the then-US secretary of state, Tzipi Livni, the then-Israeli foreign minister, Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian Authority former prime minister, and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
Mr. Qurei: "We proposed that Israel annexes all settlements in Jerusalem except Ja bal Abu Ghneim [Har Homa] This is the first time in history that we make such a proposition ... We cannot accept the annexation of Ma'ale Adumin, Ariel, Giv'at Ze'ev, Ephrat and Har Homa settlements....
"If we agree on the concept I think that in three weeks we can reach an agreement on borders and land issues."
Al Jazeera says Mr. Erekat also proposed the geographical division of Jerusalem's Old City, with the Israelis keeping control of the Jewish Quarter and "part of the Armenian Quarter."
Jan. 15, 2010
At a meeting with U.S. diplomat David Hale, Mr. Erekat said: "What is in that paper gives [the Israelis]the biggest Yerushalaim [Jeruselem]in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarized state...what more can I give?"
"[Israeli Prime Minister]Netanyahu says East Jerusalem is just a neighbourhood, like Tel Aviv, so it's building as usual, tenders...it will finish [Palestinian President Abbas]off. The problem with all U.S. administrations is they underestimated the significance of Jerusalem to the Palestinians for internal Palestinian politics...
"Our credibility on the ground has never been so low. Now it's about survival. There is Hamas and the bigger picture in the region."
At no point do the Israelis indicate they could accept this offer. Instead, one document relates what former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert apparently offered Abbas.
Aug. 21, 2008
"Israel would annex 6.8 per cent of the West Bank, including the four main settlement blocs of Gus Etzion, Ma'ale Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, and Ariel, as well as all of the settlements in East Jerusalem [with Har Homa] in exchange for the equivalent of 5.5 per cent from Israeli territory."
On refugees Israel would acknowledge the "suffering" of refugees, but not take responsibility for it ... Israel would take in 1,000 refugees a year for five years on "humanitarian grounds, and would contribute to compensation of refugees "based on suffering."
Besides the core peace issues, the transcripts show that other topics also emerge, such as the issue of the Golan Heights, which were seized from Syria by Israel in 1967.
May 21, 2008
Ms. Livni says in passing that Israel was "giving up the Golan" as part of secret peace talks with Syria, which were then under way. As a result of losing the Heights, Mr. Livni says the Israelis will need some land from the Palestinians.
Mr. Qurei responds: "Yes, you make us pay the price."
The peace talks with Syria subsequently ended without a deal.
Other documents to be revealed in the coming days are said to detail:
- The scale of confidential concessions offered by Palestinian negotiators, including on the highly sensitive issue of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
- How Israeli leaders privately asked for some Arab citizens to be transferred to a new Palestinian state.
- The intimate level of covert co-operation between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian Authority.
- How Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders were privately tipped off about Israel's 2008-9 war in Gaza.
Reuters New Agency, Guardian News Agency