Saturday, July 18, 2009
Olmert offered him the best deal he should ever get, and still Abbas refused:
American special Mideast envoy George Mitchell should make a stop at Tel Aviv's Platinum Tower on his next visit to Israel for a chat with former prime minister Ehud Olmert. He will find it interesting. Olmert will tell him that on September 13, 2008, after he resigned and became caretaker prime minister, he hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his home in Jerusalem and presented him with a detailed proposal for a peace agreement.
In their previous meeting two weeks earlier, Olmert had presented a map of the Palestinian state, but Abbas complained that it was too small. This time Olmert prepared a giant map of the future border and its twisting route, which he drew with the help of an external expert.
Olmert's map proposed that the Palestinians establish their state on 93.5 percent of the West Bank, receiving another 5.8 percent through a land exchange with Israel. The rest would come in a "safe passage" corridor from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. The map left the settlement blocs in Israel's control - Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion - proposing in exchange lands in the southern Hebron Hills, the Judean Hills and the Beit She'an Valley. According to the Palestinians, Olmert also proposed dividing the no-man's-land near Latrun. All told, Abbas was offered an area equal to the whole West Bank - 100 percent.
As for Jerusalem, Olmert proposed dividing sovereignty between the Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, and leaving the Old City's "holy basin" and its surroundings without sovereignty, under the management of an international committee with the participation of Israel, Palestine, the United States, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
The most original suggestion involved the refugee issue. Olmert did not recognize the Palestinians' demand for a right of return. Rather, he agreed to take in a small number of refugees over five years, "about the number of people that can fit into the Muqata [Palestinian government headquarters] in Ramallah" - that is, between 2,000 and 3,000 people.
According to the Israeli version, Abbas asked Olmert to let him have the map. "If you sign it, you can have it," Olmert told Abbas. He did not want to give the Palestinians a document that would be a baseline for the next round of negotiations and a basis for demanding more concessions from Israel. Abbas responded that he wanted to study the details with a cartographic expert and return the next day with chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and the cartographer for another meeting. Olmert agreed.
But Abbas did not return the next day, or the day after. He did not even call. He severed contact and eventually explained in an interview with The Washington Post that he had rejected Olmert's proposal because the gaps were too wide...
The gaps were too wide because the Arabs have put themselves into such a position that nothing will ever be enough.
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