In Abbas we have a partner

January 27, 2011
Has Mahmoud Abbas now proved that Israel has a partner for peace?

Has Mahmoud Abbas now proved that Israel has a partner for peace?

Most of the PLO leadership reacted to the revelations on Al Jazeera and in the Guardian as if they had been caught red-handed. They claim that Qatar is behind the papers which document Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in recent years, that it is an attempt to overthrow the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, that they are inaccurate and taken out of context. They are boycotting Al Jazeera, and youths surround the station's offices in Ramallah threatening them.

Too bad. Palestinian leaders are entitled to stand tall and proudly tell the world that these are authentic documents. As representatives of the Palestinian people they were prepared and remain prepared to make significant compromises with Israel, because it's in their national interest. They should have said that the claim that they "gave up" parts of Jerusalem or the West Bank is nonsense, because these areas are not in their possession and that only in agreement with Israel will they be able to get almost all the West Bank and the Arab neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem.

It's not too late. The internal debate must continue. This is a real debate both on the Palestinian side and Israeli side. Both should admit that the gaps are not as great as the rejectionists claim, and try to find the bridges as we did seven years ago with the Geneva Initiative.

Only those who do not believe that peace is possible, or who prefer continued control over the West Bank, argue that Israel has no partner. We have a partner, and he can sign a full peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people, even if implementation of the agreement will take place in stages, and will not be immediate .

It's possible whoever leaked these documents wanted to hurt the Palestinian leadership. It's possible they will succeed, if the current leadership apologises and caves in. But it can also be a seminal moment, revealing just how close we are to an agreement. The question that needs to be asked now is whether the parties can find the courage to try seriously to resolve the longest-running international conflict since the Second World War.

Dr Yossi Beilin initiated the secret talks which led to the Oslo Accords and signed the Geneva Accords

Last updated: 3:25pm, January 27 2011