Thursday, December 17, 2009

Olmert's Offer

Olmert and Abbas, back in the days they were both prime ministers, met someting like 35 times (a lot). Their final meeting was on September 16th 2008, when Olmert made Abbas a proposal, and Abbas never returned. Ever since then further details have been seeping out. Yesterday Haaretz carried an interview with Abbas in which he confirmed much of what Olmert has been saying.
"The next day, we started talking about maps. Olmert showed me one map and I brought back one of ours. He showed me a new map and I brought back a map of ours. And so it went. We agreed that 1.9 percent would be with you and Olmert demanded 6.5 percent. It was a negotiation, we didn't complete it. As a shopper enters a store, that's how we held the talks."
Abbas also admits, in a back-handed sort of way, that the talks somehow stopped:
According to Abbas, a few days before Operation Cast Lead, he told then-U.S. president George W. Bush that despite extensive American efforts, the talks had not been completed. "He asked me if it would be all right if on January 3 we sent [chief negotiator] Saeb Erekat, and Israel would send an envoy to complete the talks. But a few days before the departure for Washington, Saeb called Shalom [Turgeman, Olmert's political adviser] and said the situation did not allow it. Everything got stuck."
Neat, isn't that? In mid-December ("a few days before Operation Cast Lead") Abbas confirmed to George Bush that the talks had stopped. Bush tried to restart them, but the Gaza operation interfered. Note, however, that what the Gaza operation interfered with was not the negotiations but rather an attempt by the American president to re-start them. Interventions by American presidents are usually acts of last resort, so the negotiations must have been very stuck well before Gaza - as Olmert has been saying all along, and Abbas now confirms.

Today Haaretz has an article about what parts of Israel Olmert offered to swap in return for the 6.5% of the West Bank he wished to retain:
According to the map proposed by Olmert, which is being made public here for the first time, the future border between Israel and the Gaza Strip would be adjacent to kibbutzim and moshavim such as Be'eri, Kissufim and Nir Oz, whose fields would be given to the Palestinians. Olmert also proposed giving land to a future Palestinian state in the Beit She'an Valley near Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi; in the Judean Hills near Nataf and Mevo Betar; and in the area of Lachish and of the Yatir Forest. Together, the areas would have involved the transfer of 327 square kilometers of territory from within the Green Line.
The parts of the West Bank Israel was not going to retain, meaning settlements that would have been dismantled, included famous, large settlements:
The implementation of the Olmert plan would require the evacuation of tens of thousands of settlers and the removal of hallmarks of the West Bank settlement enterprise such as Ofra, Beit El, Elon Moreh and Kiryat Arba, as well as the Jewish community in Hebron itself.

Hebron. Remember what I wrote yesterday?

The New York Times yesterday speculated, based upon excellent Israeli sources, that Netanyahu may be seriously considering to adopt positions similar to those of Olmert.

The deal didn't happen last year, and I don't see how it will happen next year, either. Yet it's important to document what was offered and to understand what happened. As this blog often records, the world is full of malicious ignoramusi who prattle endlessly about all the things Israel does wrong, and how its real agenda is to expand, control the Palestinians or get rid of them, and endless variations of this theme. These people cannot be reasoned with, but their audiences do need to be reminded again and again of the facts.

Update: Here's Haaretz' version of the Olmert's map.


Victor said...

Here's a perspective on the security situation on the ground in the settlements. The author is from Shilo, a stone's throw away (literally) from Sinjil, and a 15 minute drive north of Ramallah.

Menachem Mendel said...

It also disproves the myths that under Bush nothing happened and that Bush didn't do anything.

Anonymous said...

As the Palestinian discourse is based on their ‘rights’, I’m not sure that disclosing what was offered makes any difference. Anything short of a full unconditional Israeli withdrawal is seen as simply a delaying tactic. As most of the world seems content to follow the Islamic world’s rather peculiar interpretation of international law on this matter, I’m not sure what can be done about it.

NormanF said...

The Palestinians don't want a peace agreement. Even if Netanyahu offers them everything Olmert offered, they would still turn it down. If the price of an agreement is accepting Israel as the Jewish State and ending the conflict, they will say "no" to such terms.

Is that really so hard for people to understand? Nothing Israel can offer the Palestinians, short of dismembering itself, will make them want to conclude an agreement.