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Palestinian Leaders Dispute Leaked Papers

By Luis Ramirez (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian leaders are rejecting reports aired by al-Jazeera that quotes what the network says are hundreds of leaked Palestinian documents that show Palestinian negotiators offered significant concessions to Israel on land and refugee issues during negotiations in 2008.

The documents quoted conversations by Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. officials that suggested the Palestinian negotiators were, among other things, willing to hand over all but one of the Jewish settlements adjacent to Jerusalem that sit on land claimed by the Palestinians.

On one of the most sensitive of the issues, the network quoted the papers as saying Palestinian negotiators proposed allowing the compound where the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest site is, come under international control temporarily while a permanent agreement is reached.

The Palestinian Fatah movement in Jerusalem was among the factions responding to the report. Its leader, Hatem Abdel Khader, spoke on Palestinian radio. He said this area is the most important place for Arab Muslims in Jerusalem. He also said no one has a right to give up the land because it is ground that is holy to Islam.

The documents, if true, could undermine Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who some Palestinians already perceive as one who is weak and willing to make too many concessions to Israel.

Palestinian officials have denied the reports and are calling for independent verification of the papers, which one senior official described as being full of lies and half-truths.

Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo on Monday accused the al-Jazeera network of misleading viewers. Hundreds of Abbas supporters rallied outside the network's office in the West Bank town of Ramallah, smashing windows and cameras before police intervened.

The United States, a broker of the negotiations, said Washington could not vouch for the veracity of the documents. Reports on the papers have fueled the frustration that many Palestinians feel about the failure of Abbas' leadership to reach an agreement and end the Israeli occupation.

Abu Issa is a shopkeeper at the Shuafat Palestinian refugee camp bordering Pizgat Zeev, one of the Jewish areas that the Palestinian leadership allegedly offered to let Israel annex. He said he considers any handover unthinkable and was especially angered by the suggestion that the Israelis offered nothing in return.

Issa said he has known all along that the negotiators have been talking for almost 20 years and have nothing to show for it. He said he believes there will be no peace with the Israelis. He thinks the Israeli people want peace, but believes their government does not.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the documents support his belief that a permanent peace agreement is not possible, and that Israel should pursue only an interim agreement.

Hamas, the rival terrorist Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip, on Monday said the documents quoted by al-Jazeera show the Palestinian leadership under Abbas has surrendered to Israel.

Abbas said the report about Palestinian concessions made during the course of peace talks in 2008 and 2009 is a "mix-up," adding e thinks the documents were altered intentionally before they were leaked to Al Jazeera. He said the Palestinian Authority has "nothing to hide" when it comes to peace negotiations and that the Palestinians discuss details with other Arab nations.

The Qatar-based Al Jazeera said it will publish other documents in the coming days highlighting more concessions on sensitive issues such as the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the proposed international control of Jerusalem's key holy sites. According to the documents, Israeli leaders turned down the offers, saying they were inadequate.

The nearly 1,700 files cover an 11-year period from 1999 to 2010 and have been described by Al Jazeera as the largest leak of confidential documents related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Al Jazeera has shared the documents with Britain's The Guardian newspaper, which says it has verified most of them.

In the documents, Qurei describes the territorial concessions in East Jerusalem as enabling population exchanges needed for a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

Leaked minutes from the June 2008 meeting quote Qurei as saying this is "the first time in history" the Palestinians had made such a proposal. He added that the Palestinians had refused to make such a concession during negotiations led by the late Palestinian President Yasir Arafat in 2000.

On the refugee issue, the files say the Palestinians secretly agreed that Israel would accept 10,000 refugees a year for 10 years – a total of 100,000.

This contradicts the Palestinians' public position that all refugees from the 1948-49 war and their descendants – several million people – have the right to return to Israel. The Israeli government has always rejected this demand as a threat to the Jewish character of their state.

IAF: Samson will Replace the Rhino


They are known as "Hercules" in the U.S. and as "Karnaf," Hebrew for "rhinoceros," in the IAF. Now the veteran cargo planes are being upgraded from the C-130 to the C-130J model, and the IAF has decided to name the new version after biblical hero Shimshon (Samson).

The choice of "Shimshon" is a meaningful moment in the history of IAF plane names, Major Alon explained on the IAF website. In honoring a biblical Israelite hero, it breaks with the IAF tradition of naming planes for birds, animals or natural phenomena like storms, lightning and thunder. Maj. Alon, Deputy Commander of the Atalef (Bat) Squadron, was put in charge of choosing the new name by the Nevatim Air Force Base.

The name, he said, "was chosen because Shimshon is the biblical parallel of Hercules from Greek mythology, after whom the plane is named in English." Other finalists in the naming process were "Pereh" (wild donkey) and "Shor" (bull)."The competition was tough and close until the last moment. But in the end, we reached agreement and a new name was chosen."

The new C-130J reaches higher speeds than the regular Karnaf, Maj. Moshe, Project Officer in Plane Planning Department, told the IAF website. "It can reach a greater range, carry a heavier payload and reach higher altitudes. A variety of assignments can be executed in a better fashion and with less planes than were needed in the past."

The Shimshon boasts advanced digital systems. "This is a meaningful and radical change," Moshe explained. "We are going from the old age of transport planes and leaping several generations forward."

While resembling the C-130 on the outside, the C-130J (Shimshon) is a completely different plane on the inside. The wiring systems, avionics, steering and wings have all been replaced with newer and more sophisticated systems containing advanced technologies. There are currently 200 such planes operating worldwide, in the air forces of the U.S., Britain, Australia and Canada, among other countries.

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