The Olmert revelations

Avi Issacharoff has published his promised report here on his interview with Israel’s Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert … in which Olmert describes his interaction with the Palestinian leaders and the proposals he gave Mahmoud Abbas on 16 September 2008.

Abbas has said he wants talks to restart from this point.

Issacharoff reported that Olmert said this:

“I completely gave up on having an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley…because I could protect the Jordan River line through an international military force on the other side of the Jordan River”… “There was no opposition on the Palestinian side to our having a presence in warning stations along the mountain range”…

Issacharoff: “Today, such an offer, particularly as it relates to the Jordan Valley, is all but inconceivable”… [Netanyahu wants control]

Olmert said: “I proposed a compromise on…the Temple Mount. There’d be no sovereignty for anyone else” but joint administration of 5 states This idea [no sovereignty but joint administration of 5 states – Palestine, Israel, Jordan Saudi Arabia, and the United States] “came from my head. I was thinking about it day + night”… What did Abbas say? Olmert: “he didn’t say he opposed my idea. It was clear to me that he agreed…”

Abbas said [according to Olmert] “Listen, it makes a very serious impression…but I have to be sure. I want the map experts from both sides to sit together”

Olmert told Issacharoff that: “We called over Turjeman + Saeb, I said Shalom should call Danny Tirza, our map expert, so they should sit together the next day” Olmert: But Saeb Erekat called the next day to cancel the map experts’ because the Palestinians “had forgotten that Abbas had to go to Amman”…

A senior Palestinian official told Issacharoff: “The natural thing was that Abu Mazen would not sign immediately” + would responsibly consult w/ the PLO leadership.

Issacharoff said he asked a senior Palestinian official:  Between the last meeting + the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, there were 3 months”. Why did you give no answer to Olmert in that time?

Olmert told Issacharoff that he had his own ideas about why: The Palestinians “were very worried. Abu Mazen is not a big hero. They were afraid. Erekat was worried..They thought maybe after the American elections they would get more from President Obama”…

In Issacharoff’s earlier piece [published in The Tower on 17 May], he wrote: “Olmert’s offer will likely one day become the basis for a final-status agreement”…

Saeb Erekat said, however, that “Olmert’s memory concerning the last meeting has been rather foggy”.

Erekat said there were “many intervening meetings” during the 3 months between the meeting with Olmert in September 2008 + Operation Cast Lead between Palestinian + Israelis [Turgeman, Livni, + Tal Becker].

Asked by the Jerusalem Post to elaborate, Erekat explained:
(1): “We also presented a map to Olmert that would transfer 1.9% of West Bank territory to Israeli sovereignty…”
(2): “On December 18, 2008 we deposited our map + Olmert’s map as we remembered it w/ President Bush at the White House…”
(3): we deposited our map w/ Bush “…in the presence of Rice + [National Security Advisor Stephen] Hadley…”
(4): Bush asked that “we + Israel send reps on Jan 3, 2009 to Washington, but then the operation [Cast Lead] began in Gaza”…

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UPDATE: A document in the Palestine Papers leaked to Al-Jazeera and now posted on their website here indicates that on 31 August, Olmert or his people ran a summary of the “package” he was going to propose, two weeks later in September, to Abbas.

It was apparently not yet complete, by the end of August, and did not contain the proposal of the 5-nation administration over the “Holy Basin”. It did, however, say that East Jerusalem would be divided territorially along the lines of the Clinton Parameters [with the exception of the “Holy Basin”, which Olmert said comprises 0.04% of the West Bank (approximately 2.2 km)]…

But it did contain the slightly whittled-down territorial concession:
“Israel would annex 6.8% of the West Bank … including the four main settlement ‘blocs’ of Gush ‘Etzion (with Efrata), Ma’ale Adumim, Giv’at Ze’ev and Ariel, as well as all of the settlements in East Jerusalem (with Har Homa), in exchange for the equivalent of 5.5% from Israeli territory … safe passage between Gaza and West Bank would be under Israeli sovereignty with Palestinian control, and is not included in the above percentages”.

And it said “There will be a special road connecting Bethlehem with Ramallah, thus by-passing East Jerusalem (most likely the same road currently planned around Adumim)”.

And “Israel would acknowledge the suffering of – but not responsibility for – Palestinian refugees … and eould contribute to the compensation of the refugees through an international mechanism and based on suffering … Compensation, and not restitution or return [(apart from 5,000 Israel would allow to return inside the Green Line on a humanitarian basis)], would be the only remedy”.

LAND SWAPS = Exclusive new report: map hand-drawn by Mahmoud Abbas from memory after meeting Ehud Olmert on 16 Sept 2008

This is an exclusive [not ours, but of Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff, who reported it in The Tower, here] — a map reportedly hand-drawn from memory by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 16 September 2008 upon his return to Ramallah after meeting Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

In his exclusive, Issacharoff wrote that this map somehow “calls into question the basic willingness of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept any peace agreement with the Jewish State”…

But Issacharoff’s story [w/ the Abbas map exclusive] could have the effect of bolstering Abbas’ position that talks should restart at the point they broke off in September 2008 — in other words, on the basis of the proposals made at the time this map was drawn.  The current Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has refused to start talks on this basis.  But, the concrete confirmation of the discussion on 16 September 2008 in the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, could somehow facilitate the restart of the direct negotiations.

This map, reportedly drawn by Abbas, appears to be encased in transparent plastic:

Negotiations map hand-drawn by Mahmoud Abbas from memory after meeting Ehud Olmert
Negotiations map hand-drawn by Mahmoud Abbas from memory after meeting Ehud Olmert

In fact, the only thing that’s new in this story, so far, is the photo of this map. [But, Issacharoff promises to publish his full interview with Olmert tomorrow…]

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Land Swaps

Palestinian negotiators have said for several years that the Israelis only let them look at this map, but never to keep it.   Palestinians then prepared their own map which they gave to George Mitchell at the start of the Obama administration’s involvement in 2009 — but they say that to this day Israel has not actually handed over a map, only shown one in September, then whisked it away.  [Another report published later today suggested that Abbas was asked to sign the map, but when he declined, the map was retained by Olmert…]

This map, which Issacharoff said is the one drawn by President Abbas, is a map of Israeli proposals for Land Swaps — an idea that evolved out of the Geneva Initiative signed in December 2003, in Geneva, between Israeli and Palestinian “civil society” teams.

The Palestinian team insisted that the Land Swaps be on a 1:1 basis — and this was agreed by the Israeli team of unofficial negotiators.  It was the one concrete Palestinian achievement through the Geneva Initiative.

The Palestinians additionally scored another point through the Geneva Initiative negotiations: the Land Swaps should be of land of an equal or greater “quality” [i.e., not rubbish or  poor-quality barren wasteland].

The Abbas-drawn map shows, inside the West Bank, only the 3 large settlement blocs that have been under discussion between Israels and Palestinians since 2000-2001: Ariel, Gush Etzion, Maale Adumim.

It also shows, outside the West Bank, what must be proposed areas of land swaps: 1.) North of the West Bank; 2.) at the Tarqumiya area  just to the West of the Tarqoumiya area [where the terminal for the two-way safe-passage route planned between Gaza and the West Bank was/is to be located] ; and 3.) South of the West Bank.  The Tarqoumiya area was/is supposed to be the terminal for the two-way safe-passage route that was supposed to be already operating already, for years, between Gaza and the West Bank.

[The two designs to the left are not clear — the lower one appears to be the Gaza Strip, with the blob within the wavy line to the right appears to be the Land Swap offer.  Is the top one just a doodle?  UPDATE:  No — According to Issacharoff’s report on Friday 24 May in The Tower, these are the Arabic numbers of the percentage of Land Swap as Abbas incorrectly remembered them (6.8% and 5.5%, rather than 6.3%  and 5.8%)

NOTE: The Palestine Papers, leaked documents from the Palestinian offices including from the PLO’s Negotiations Support Unit, show that in a meeting in June 2008, three months before the final Olmert-Abbas meeting on 16 September 2008, Tzipi Livni said: “The 7.3% offer by Olmert is the most generous, and will be perceived by Israelis as the most fair”.  In that same meeting, Ahmad Qureia [Abu Alaa] stuck to the same 1.9% that Palestinian negotiators are still standing by today, and said that  “7.3 position just does not allow a state to survive, and it takes all around Jerusalem, and gives to the south of the West Bank and next to Gaza”.   This revelation is published here.

Another of the Palestine Paper documents describes Israel’s position in July 2008 as: “Olmert’s proposal to AM [Abu Mazen, or Mahmoud Abbas] of 7.3% of West Bank (excl. East Jerusalem, No-Man’s Land i.e, 9.2%) in exchange for 5% equivalent from Israel in southern West Bank and around Gaza…” The same document also notes: “Not allowed to present GoI [Government of Israel] position on swaps”…And it also says “Willing to discuss swap but not 1:1 in quantity. Palestinians do not have ‘rights’ to the land and Israel is not under obligation to ‘return’ land to Palestinians”… This is published here.

On 15 July, a Palestinian team led by Abu Alaa was in Washington to meet Concoleezza Rice. According to the meeting notes, published by Palestine Papers here, Abu Alaa told Condi Rice: “We offered 1.9%. It is reasonable. We included the settlements inside Jerusalem – Psgat Zeev, etc. It’s the first time! … East Jerusalem is part of the 1967 border. Anything there should be part of the swap. Unfortunately, what we heard from Olmert is that he can’t stop building because it is Jerusalem”. Condoleeza Rice reportedly said: “Ariel is a problem, I told them – it protrudes down far into the Palestinian state…Also it would be difficult for Israel to protect Ariel without a large perimeter”.

I was shown a map very similar to the Abbas map in January 2001, in a Ministry in Ramallah — before the era of “Land Swaps” — and it showed only the West Bank with the three areas that Israel calls “settlement blocs”, minus any Israeli land that was on offer for a trade.

In other words, in late 2000 + 2001, Israeli negotiators working for then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak were proposing that they keep the three large settlement blocs marked on the map — but they were not proposing to give up any territory to the Palestinians.

The Palestinian negotiators apparently were willing at that time, as I was told in another Ramallah office, to cede only two, not three, of these settlement areas.   UPDATE: a Palestinian official in Ramallah told me today, however, that it was the opposite — the Palestinians had rejected [not accepted] two out of the three concessions.

In any case, it was not clear what the Palestinians would get, in exchange…

It took eight years [from 2001 to 2008] for the Israeli negotiators to sweeten their offer with an exchange proposal, the Land Swaps…

A Palestinian official in Ramallah told me this afternoon, however, that their team had refused to cede both Maale Adumim [which is half-way from Jerusalem to the Jordanian Border at the Dead Sea] and Ariel  [which goes 22 km deep inside the northern West Bank] .

He indicated that there was Palestinian willingness to give up some part of Gush Etzion in the south, a part that is near the 1967 Green Line.

In fact, he said, the Palestinians have rejected the idea of “settlement blocs” and are only willing to talk on a settlement-by-settlement basis.

He also said, as he said before, that Ehud Olmert wanted to take 6.5% of the West Bank, and was offering 5.8% territory in exchange, with compensation of just over 1% somehow.

What the Palestinians have proposed — and the map that the Palestinians have presented, which is not the Abbas-drawn map [above] of the Israeli proposals — is a 1:1 exchange of 1.9% of West Bank land.

This Palestinian official also noted that this map published by Issacharoff does not show East Jerusalem — which, he said, Olmert had accepted would be the capital of the Palestinian State…

“President Abbas did draw a map”, the official added, “but I’m not sure this map is the map the President drew”.  He said that professional cartographers working with the PLO then made a projection of Abbas’s drawing on a topograpical map of the West Bank… Then the Palestinian negotiators later presented their own map, which the U.S. government has officially received.

UPDATE: The Times of Israel reported here that “According to Walla, Olmert envisaged relinquishing Israeli territory on a one-for-one basis to the Palestinians in areas including near Afula; near Tirat Zvi south of Beit She’an; north of Jerusalem; in the Judean Desert, and in the Lachish area. He also endorsed a tunnel route to link Gaza and the West Bank.  Olmert, as he has subsequently confirmed, was also prepared to divide Jerusalem into Israeli- and Palestinian-controlled neighborhoods, and to relinquish Israeli sovereignty at the Temple Mount and the entire Old City. He proposed that the ‘Holy Basin’ be overseen instead by a five-member, non-sovereign international trusteeship, comprising Israel, the PA, Jordan, the US and Saudi Arabia”.

[Note – While I expect that the phrase “north of Jerusalem” refers to Olmert’s proposing for the first time to give the industrial zone of Atarot as well as the Qalandia airport to the Palestinian Authority, under condition of joint operation… but I can’t imagine what the writer, or Walla, meant by Israel relinquishing Israeli territory “in the Judean Desert”…? ]

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By the time the Olmert proposal was made to Abbas on 16 September 2008, as part of the American-led Annapolis process of negotiations that was supposed to lead to a state by the end of 2008 [or at the very latest by the end of the Bush Admininstration on 18 January 2009], Olmert himself was facing indictment and the Palestinians were told [and decided] to hold off on any commitment…

It was reportedly Tzipi Livni, at the time Olmert’s Foreign Minister [now, Netanyahu’s Justice Minister and also somehow in charge, despite Molcho’s apparently continuing role, of negotiations with the Palestinians] who advised the Palestinians to hold off on responding to Olmert in September 2008…

On 27 December 2008, Israel launched a massive military operation, Cast Lead, into Gaza — and Abbas broke off negotiations a few days later. Despite a few contacts, these negotiations have not yet resumed — and Abbas wants them to resume where they left off on 16 September 2008…

Palestinians say that Netanyahu’s negotiator Yitzhak Molcho has since introduced the idea that Israel should be allowed to keep a security corridor all along the Jordan [River] Valley, carving out a large slice that would remain under their control.   Mohammad Shtayyah said after a series of direct contacts in Amman in January 2012 that Molcho said, “Give it to us, or we’ll take it”…  And President Abbas has complained to a number of visiting American and Israeli delegations about Israel’s Jordan Valley ambitions.

The Nakba … is awareness growing?

Tel Aviv-based public-opinion analyst Dahlia Scheindlin has just written an article in +972 Magazine, here, entitled “The Palestinian Nakba: Are Israelis starting to get it?”

Here is an excerpt from Dahlia Scheindlin’s piece:

“During the Camp David negotiations of 2000, when I was working with American pollster Stanley Greenberg supplying public opinion data to then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak almost nightly, the refugee issue tended to be the toughest problem, even as the Jewish public advanced significantly toward unprecedented compromises on Jerusalem (documented in Greenberg’s 2009 book).

Just after the talks collapsed, a Hebrew University survey in late July, 2000 asked Israelis (and Palestinians) whether they thought their respective leader’s compromises on each item had been appropriate, too much or too little. Among Israelis, the perception of Barak’s proposed compromises on Palestinian refugees gathered the highest ‘too much of a compromise’ response of all (64 percent gave this answer, compared to 57 percent for Jerusalem).

Twelve years later, in a December, 2012 survey by the same authors (Jacob Shamir and Khalil Shikaki), the Palestinian refugee question no longer holds the most-rejected-clause spot. That distinction now goes to the proposals on Jerusalem, based on the old Clinton framework (59 percent rejected them, 38 percent supported them). Respondents were asked about a refugee compromise which reflects the Clinton, Geneva Plan and Arab Peace Initiative approach:

Both sides agree that the solution will be based on UN resolutions 194 and 242. The refugees would be given five choices for permanent residency. These are: the Palestinian state and the Israeli areas transferred to the Palestinian state in the territorial exchange mentioned above; no restrictions would be imposed on refugee return to these two areas. Residency in the other three areas (in host countries, third countries, and Israel) would be subject to the decision of these states. As a base for its decision Israel will consider the average number of refugees admitted to third countries like Australia, Canada, Europe, and others. All refugees would be entitled to compensation for their “refugeehood” and loss of property.

Among the 600-person sample, which included Arabs, 42 percent accepted this and 49 percent rejected it – a significant decline from nearly two-thirds who felt it was ‘too much of a compromise’ in 2000.

Continue reading The Nakba … is awareness growing?

Yasser Abed Rabbo reveals he was a secret channel for talks with Israel in 2010-2011

It’s hard to understand what the purpose is, of this revelation.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former spokesperson for the DFLP who’s now the Executive Secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] told Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff he personally took part in an hitherto-unrevealed series of talks with Yizhak Molcho, the negotiations adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, which ended with an inconclusive meeting with Netanyahu himself in mid-February 2011.

Issacharoff reported, in his story [published by the Times of Israel, here] that “The Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the contents of this report”.

The Issacharoff story does not explain how the talks began, in late 2010 [not long after an Obama effort to restart direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations by a meeting at the White House in September 2010, which were suspended after the IDF launched its major Gaza operation, Cast Lead, on 27 December 2008…] Nor does it explain exactly how Issacharoff got the story, or why Abed Rabbo decided to speak out now.

But these contacts ended with the mid-February 2011 meeting.

Abed Rabbo told Issacharoff that he waited a full year to hear back from Netanyahu:
“He said to me, ‘Give me two days and I’ll get back to you.’ We said goodbye. He asked me to send his regards to Abu Mazen. And from that point on, I didn’t hear from Bibi or Molcho. A year later [i.e., in or around February 2012], I relayed him a message through a third party that I’ve been sitting waiting by the phone for a year, but Netanyahu did not respond”.

It was not long after that effort a year later  to re-contact Netanyahu that Abed Rabbo and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad both refused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ order to take a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem on 17 April 2012 — a still-puzzling episode that we posted about on our sister blog, UN-Truth, here. In that post, we noted that the Jerusalem Post reported that Fayyad’s “last-minute cancellation may cast new light on divisions within the Palestinian political establishment” …

Much of Issacharoff’s report makes for uncomfortable reading.

Continue reading Yasser Abed Rabbo reveals he was a secret channel for talks with Israel in 2010-2011