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Published: Wednesday, 1/26/2011

Toxic leaks

The Middle East media outlet Al-Jazeera has released a raft of internal Palestinian memos detailing negotiations with Israel about the future of the land both Israelis and Palestinians inhabit. The release has had explosive results on both sides and among other nations, notably the United States, that seek a peaceful solution to the long-standing Mideast conflict.

President Obama launched the current round of talks last September. They have bogged down because Israel refused to extend its moratorium on settler construction in the West Bank, and Palestinian officials refused to talk while construction continues.

Mr. Obama is closely identified with the effort to bring the Mideast talks to a successful conclusion - defined as two states, living side by side, recognized and in peace. He gave the parties a year to sort out their problems, with the unspoken threat that if they didn't, all bets might be off in terms of aid, security guarantees, and other expressions of U.S. participation.

Now Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other leaders from the Fatah faction have seen what they proposed for a settlement in 2008 revealed to the world. They offered concessions dealing with control of most of Jerusalem - including joint administration of the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic holy site - and the right of return to the territory of most of the Palestinians in exile. Some Palestinian critics have condemned the concessions as treasonous.

The leaks indicate that Israel expressed little interest in the concessions. That apparent response raises questions about Israel's commitment to the talks, despite what its leaders have told Washington.

Amid the disarray following the revelations, the United States must pick up the strands of the negotiations and try to weave them successfully. That task has become harder, but it remains essential.



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