The Guardian’s collusion with al-Jazeera in publishing selected items of confidential information on the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians has been extremely foolish (Comment, 31 January); and if I didn’t still hold on to the view that the Guardian is a newspaper of integrity, I might say that it looks like sabotage. Fortunately, the so-called villain of the piece, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, has already explained in robust terms what negotiation involves. Fortunately, too, many Palestinians on the ground understand what is at stake, and do not regard him as a traitor.
My meeting with Erekat revealed that he is, indeed, a passionate advocate of his people. In February 2005, I participated in a Rabbis for Human Rights mission to Israel and the Palestinian territories, which met Erekat in Jericho, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, head of the Palestinian Peace Coalition, in Ramallah. Both men were furious about the way the separation barrier deviated from the green line and cut into Palestinian territory. Both were angry about Ariel Sharon’s unilateral, patronising approach and the way he delivered ultimatums. They were frustrated by the reluctance of Israel to make the life of ordinary Palestinians a little easier – like removing the checkpoint outside Jericho. Both were aware that in withdrawing from Gaza, Sharon was planning to hold on to as much land in the West Bank as possible. And yet both remained totally committed to a two-state solution and refused to lose sight of their goal: a sovereign, secure and democratic state of Palestine, living peacefully alongside a sovereign, secure and democratic State of Israel.
Securing that involves negotiating – which involves compromises on both sides. The only good that has come out of the Palestine papers is that they clearly show that Israel does have a partner to negotiate with – but anyone seriously interested in a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict, knew that already.
Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah
Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue