Al Jazeera claims to have in its possession an Israeli government paper detailing the basic requirements Israel sees preconditions for any peace negotiations with the Palestinians. I haven’t thought at all in depth about what these conditions are alleged to be, so I won’t comment on them here. Instead, I wanted to blog briefly about something that popped into my head the moment I read the first paragraph:
Al Jazeera has obtained a document claiming to be Israel’s terms on which final status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians can begin.
My question is, how do we know that this document is what it purports to be? I can think instantly of four different factual narratives leading to that first paragraph:
1. It’s a legitimate, albeit confidential internal Israeli document that was carelessly left lying around, which is how it ended in Al Jazeera’s hands.
2. It’s a legitimate, albeit confidential Israeli document shared with Abbas, which Abbas’ political friends or enemies released, either to help or embarrass him.
3. It’s a legitimate, albeit confidential internal Israeli document that was deliberately leaked to Al Jazeera as a way of raising the flag and seeing if anyone salutes.
4. It’s a phony document that the Israeli’s planted, again to raise the flag and see if anyone salutes. That is, it really isn’t the Israeli bottom line, but Israel wants to see what the response will be.
5. It’s a completely phony document, cooked up by Al Jazeera, Palestinians, or any one else with a dog in the fight that’s intended to narrow the parameters within which Israel will be forced to negotiate.
I’m sure you can come up with other scenarios. All of them demonstrate that context matters. Knowing whether the document is what it purports to be, and understanding how it ended up in Al Jazeera’s hands, are facts hugely helpful in interpreting both the document and subsequent responses to the document. The only problem is that, if the true story is either option 3 or 4, any benefits to be gained from releasing such a document are destroyed if the underlying machinations behind its release are exposed.