It just gets worse and worse. But really, what can be expected when one side of a conflict is funded, armed and backed by the occupier?
British intelligence helped draw up a secret plan for a wide-ranging crackdown on the Islamist movement Hamas which became a security blueprint for the Palestinian Authority, leaked documents reveal. The plan asked for the internment of leaders and activists, the closure of radio stations and the replacement of imams in mosques.
The disclosure of the British plan, drawn up by the intelligence service in conjunction with Whitehall officials in 2004, and passed by a Jerusalem-based MI6 officer to the senior PA security official at the time, Jibril Rajoub, is contained in the cache of confidential documents obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared with the Guardian. The documents also highlight the intimate level of military and security cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli forces.
The bulk of the British plan has since been carried out by the West Bank-based PA security apparatus which is increasingly criticised for authoritarian rule and human rights abuses, including detention without trial and torture.
The British documents, which have been independently authenticated by the Guardian, included detailed proposals for a security taskforce based on the UK’s “trusted” Palestinian Authority contacts, outside the control of “traditional security chiefs”, with “direct lines” to Israel intelligence.
It lists suicide bombers and rockets as issues that need urgent attention.
Tony Blair, envoy of the Middle East quartet, was attacked by Palestinian officials for being biased in favour of Israeli security needs and seeming “to advocate an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”, the Palestine papers reveal.
The former prime minister, appointed to the job in September 2007, made the American Colony hotel in East Jerusalem his base for efforts to boost the West Bank economy and improve Palestinian governance – key strands of the overall western strategy of backing the Palestinian Authority and shunning Hamas during negotiations with Israel.
He encountered little of the hostility he faced in Britain or the Arab world over the war in Iraq but met resistance when his initial plans for development projects were scorned for ignoring the realities of occupation and prioritising Israel’s security over Palestinian economic needs.
“The overall tone, without making any judgment as to intent, is paternalistic and frequently uses the style and jargon of the Israeli occupation authorities,” complained a memo by the PA’s negotiations support unit reviewing his proposals. “Some of the terms (eg ‘separate lanes’ and ‘tourist-friendly checkpoints’) are unacceptable to Palestinians.”
In February 2008, Blair is recorded as telling the quartet – made up of the UN, US, EU and Russia – that he has a good relationship with Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak. But he warns that the current approach to the Gaza Strip – under siege since the Hamas takeover – “is wrong and needs to change immediately”. Blair found it “discouraging” that there had been no progress since the Annapolis conference, and feared “bad consequences”. But a Russian diplomat present at the meeting “got the impression that Blair was talking like Bush’s representative”.
The Annapolis process was meant to be a round of peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement to solve the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But instead of focusing on resolving the core issues at hand, why did Palestinian negotiators spend so much time during the meetings denigrating their political rivals, Hamas?
The Palestine Papers reveal that Fatah was obsessed with maintaining political supremacy over Hamas, with Israel’s cooperation, especially following the 2006 electoral victory of the Islamist movement. Documents obtained by Al Jazeera also show the extent to which the Palestinian Authority cracked down on Hamas institutions to weaken the group and strengthen its own relationship with Israel.
At the height of negotiations, on April 7, 2008, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni was unequivocal in summing up Israel’s policy: “Our strategic view is to strengthen you and weaken Hamas.”
Working with Israel to weaken Hamas also appeared to be in the Palestinian Authority’s interest. During a May 6, 2008 security meeting between Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Israeli army civil administration in the West Bank, and Hazem Atallah, the head of the Palestinian Civil Police, Hamas was a prominent subject of discussion.
Yoav Mordechai: How is your fight against “civilian” Hamas: the officers, people in municipalities, etc. This is a serious threat.
Hazem Atallah: I don’t work at the political level, but I agree we need to deal with this.
Yoav Mordechai: Hamas needs to be declared illegal by your President. So far it is only the militants that are illegal.
Atallah: There is also the request for tear gas canisters. You previously gave us these back in 96.”
Yoav Mordechai: We gave some to you for Balata 2 weeks ago. What do you need them for?
Atallah: Riot control. We want to avoid a situation where the security agencies may be forced to fire on unarmed civilians.
Never mind that tear gas canisters have proven that they can be just as deadly as live bullet rounds, the exchange also foreshadows a crackdown on Hamas’ social institutions in the West Bank.