This is a cross-post by Just Journalism.
Much of The Guardian’s reporting today on the Palestine papers emphasises the quote from Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, claiming that he had made an unprecedented offer to Israel of ‘the biggest Yerushalayim in Jewish history’.
However, the immediate sentence before this, which has not been cited in any of The Guardian’s analysis, reads:
‘Israelis want the two state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians.’
The first two page spread in the paper appeared under the banner ‘Israel spurned Palestinian offer of ‘biggest Yerushalayim in history’’, and references were also made to the quote in The Guardian’s editorial and in a comment piece by Jonathan Freedland. The quote is used to bolster the editorial line that negotiations have failed due to the intransigence of Israel, which refused to accept significant concessions by the Palestinians.
The original context of the full quote, however, reveals a second point: Erekat was acknowledging that the Israelis were committed to a peaceful solution. The full quote, from the Palestinian account of a meeting between Erekat and assistant US envoy David Hale, reads:
‘Israelis want the two state solution but they don’t trust. They want it more than you think, sometimes more than Palestinians. What is in that paper gives them the biggest Yerushalaim in Jewish history, symbolic number of refugees return, demilitarised state…what more can I give?’
The document of the minutes, which is entitled, ‘The Palestine papers: ‘the biggest Jerusalem in history’’, even highlights the two sentences, which appear on page 3, adding an online annotation which ignores the first part of the quote:
‘Erekat, a fluent English speaker, demonstrates his sensitivity towards the Israelis by using the Hebrew name for Jerusalem.’