RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinians now have their own version of a WikiLeaks scandal.
President Mahmoud Abbas and his aides went on the attack Monday, accusing Al-Jazeera TV of lies and distortions in publishing the so-called “Palestine Papers,” which claim that Palestinian negotiators were ready to make significant concessions for a peace deal with Israel.
Despite the angry denials, the hunt was on for the leaker.
The new documents indicate 2008 talks made progress on dividing Jerusalem — and the resulting backlash suggests the Palestinian public has not been prepared by their leaders for the far-reaching concessions deemed necessary for a peace agreement.
The Arab satellite station said it obtained hundreds of transcripts and notes from a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It began releasing them in a Sunday broadcast, the first of four prime-time shows on the documents this week.
Monday, an angry crowd of about 250 Palestinians gathered outside the West Bank’s main Al-Jazeera office, with some smashing the station’s logo and glass panels in the front door.
In the search for the leak, suspicion fell on low-level employees from a support office for Palestinian negotiators. Palestinian intelligence searched computer files in the office Monday, but it was not clear if any arrests were made.
Abbas dismissed the broadcasts as “shameful.” Members of his inner circle accused Al-Jazeera of distorting
reality, and said the station and its sponsors in the Qatari government were trying to discredit the Western-backed Palestinian leadership. They suggested the station was promoting the agenda of Abbas’ rival, the Islamist Hamas, which opposes negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinian leader’s detractors say Abbas has been misleading the Palestinian public about the extent of the concessions he is willing to make in exchange for an elusive deal with Israel.
The uproar could further weaken Abbas and boost Hamas, with some analysts predicting the nightly revelations may cause serious damage to Abbas’ standing.
Al-Jazeera, citing from the transcripts, said Palestinian leaders agreed to an Israeli annexation of large areas of war-won east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ would-be capital, and that they were willing to consider a resettlement of only a nominal number of refugees.