Olmert offered everything, the 'Palestinians' never answeredsweeping peace offer he made to the 'Palestinians.'
Revealing never before heard details of talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Olmert was referring to the proposal for a peace agreement that he presented to Abbas in the afternoon hours of a Tuesday, September 16, 2008 meeting in the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.
“At the end of the meeting” Olmert recalled this week, “we called Saeb Erekat [chief negotiator for PLO] and Shalom [Shalom Turjeman, Olmert's diplomatic adviser]. We asked them to meet the following day, Wednesday, together with map experts, in order to arrive at a final formula for the border between Palestine and Israel.”
But that Wednesday, Erekat called Turjeman and said they could not meet to finalize the peace deal because they “had forgotten that Abbas had to go to Amman!” Erekat said they would meet the following week. “I’ve been waiting ever since,” Olmert said with a smile.
Among the historic concessions, Olmert offered an unprecedented compromise over the Holy Basin, which includes the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism. He proposed that in the context of a permanent peace agreement, a special committee with representatives from five countries – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, the United States, and Israel – would administer the critical area.
As his advisors gathered around him, Abbas told them that the Israeli Prime Minister had presented him not only the details of the agreement but also a large map, which laid out the borders of the future Palestinian state.
Abbas silenced those present so that he could concentrate. He wanted to sketch out Olmert’s map from memory. The Israeli Prime Minister had told him that as long as Abu Mazen did not sign his initials to the map and endorse it, Olmert would not hand over a copy. Abu Mazen took a piece of letterhead of the Presidential Office and drew on it the borders of the Palestinian state as he remembered them.
Abbas marked the settlement blocks that Israel would retain: The Ariel bloc, the Jerusalem-Maaleh Adumim bloc (including E1), and Gush Etzion. A total of 6.3% of the West Bank. Then Abbas also drew the territories that Israel proposed to offer in their place: In the area of Afula-Tirat Zvi, in the Lachish area, the area close to Har Adar, and in the Judean desert and the Gaza envelope. A total of 5.8% of the West Bank. Abu Mazen wrote on the left side of the letterhead the numbers as he incorrectly remembered them (6.8% and 5.5%), and on the back he wrote the rest of the details of the proposal: Safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank via a tunnel, the pentilateral committee to administer the Holy Basin, the removal of the Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and the absorption of 5,000 Palestinian refugees, 1,000 each year over five years, inside the Green Line.
Abbas’ hand-drawn map, sketched on the stationery of the Palestinian Office of the President and obtained by TheTower.org in the course of this investigative report about the clandestine negotiation between Olmert and Abbas, was published here yesterday exclusively. The two men met 36 times, mostly in Jerusalem and once in Jericho, and arrived at a formula that was to be the basis for a lasting agreement between the two parties. But in the end, peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians were not signed, despite the far-reaching proposal made by Olmert. As an official matter, the Palestinian Authority has not responded.
TheTower.org: But between the last meeting and the Gaza Operation there were three months. Why didn’t you answer Olmert during that period?
The official preferred to avoid answering that question. Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat confirms that these were the details of the proposal Olmert offered as they were shown to the Palestinian side. “But Olmert’s memory concerning the last meeting has been rather foggy,” he insisted. ”We too showed Olmert a map that spoke of handing over 1.9% only of the West Bank to Israeli sovereignty.
“I know all of their arguments,” said Olmert. “They say that Abu Mazen agreed with Bush that Erekat would meet with Turjeman in early January in Washington, but that was a few days before Bush left the White House and we received no such invitation. They claim that it was because I was finished politically, so he hesitated. But that is an excuse after the fact. They [the Palestinians] were very worried. Abu Mazen is not a big hero. They were afraid. Erekat was worried. In the end they thought that maybe after the American elections they would get more from President Obama.”
Read the whole thing.
Today, five years later, Jonthan Tobin argues cogently that most of the world ignores the lessons of Olmert's failure.
Abbas couldn’t take yes for an answer.
Indeed, the Palestinian leader wouldn’t even initial the hand-drawn map of the deal. Nor did he ever dignify this generous offer with a response. As Olmert puts it, he’s still waiting for a phone call from Abbas with his answer.
The reason for that is not exactly a secret. Abbas could not say yes because doing so meant recognizing the legitimacy of the Jewish state that would remain in the parts of the country Olmert had agreed to give up. And that is not something he could do and survive in the violent world of Palestinian politics. Since Palestinian nationalism was founded out of the desire to reject Zionism, it is simply impossible for it to make its peace with a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn.
Olmert’s proposal is vulnerable to criticism because it creates a new divided Jerusalem that would be an unbearable mess. So, too, would his limited right of return for Palestinians and the tunnel he wanted to dig between Gaza and the West Bank. But the real problem is that, like Ehud Barak, who also tried to give the Palestinians almost everything they said they wanted, he got nothing in exchange for offers that compromised Israel’s rights.
In Olmert’s view the only conclusion to be drawn from this failure is that Abbas is, “no hero.” He’s right about that, but the lesson from this episode goes deeper than Abbas’s lack of heroism. If a Palestinian leader couldn’t bring himself to take an offer like that—one, I might add, that gives up far more in Jerusalem than most Israelis thought acceptable—than what this shows is that the 36 meetings Olmert had with Abbas was a charade. The only point of this process for the Palestinians is to use any concessions they get as the floor for future negotiations and demands. The result is that Israel continues to abandon its rights—including not just West Bank settlements but the most sacred places in Judaism—while getting neither peace nor security.
Olmert says he’s proud of his efforts, but all he really accomplished was to demonstrate once again that real peace with the Palestinians remains an illusion for the foreseeable future.We Israelis can only hope and pray that we never again have a government that is foolish enough to offer anything near what the 'Palestinians' have already rejected.
Labels: Abu Mazen, Annapolis process, Condoleeza Rice, Ehud K. Olmert, George W. Bush, Holy Basin, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, Judea and Samaria, Middle East peace process, Palestinian state, Saeb Erekat