Given a choice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left aside the issue of settlements and informed the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the “litmus test” for Israel’s seriousness in resumed negotiations will be the release of the 104 longest-held Palestinian prisoners.
These prisoners are men who have been in Israeli jails for 20 to 30 years, so far — since before the Oslo Accords. And, according to Palestinian negotiators, Israel already agreed to release these men, in 1999, but failed to do so.
Secretary Kerry has apparently told the Palestinians that the Israeli government will do this now.
There is still doubt. Israeli officials have suggested that they will decide which prisoners will be released — despite the list of 104 specific names Kerry passed to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. And, Israeli officials are saying that they will decide where the prisoners will be released to — whether it’s to their homes, or to Gaza or other countries. Palestinian officials are saying these men must be returned to their homes and families. See our post on our sister blog, UN-Truth, for more details.
The 104 prisoners are to be released in four groups over the 9-month projected time to which the Palestinians and Israeli negotiators have committed themselves — and the first group of 26 prisoners is to be released on August 13 — the day before a second meeting of the negotiators is due to take place in Jerusalem.
Akiva Eldar has written in Al-Monitor here that “Al-Monitor has learned that the Palestinian leadership decided after internal deliberations to tell Kerry that it would not give up its demand to launch negotiations based on the 1967 borders at any price…The Palestinian leadership’s decision to insist on the 1967 borders as a precondition for renewed negotiations came the day after the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting ended in Jordan on May 27”.
Also today, Shaul Arieli published an article in Haaretz here saying that “The speeches of the leaders at the World Economic Forum in Amman once again attest to the insight that often emerged from the negotiations Israel held with the PLO on a final status agreement: The territorial issue is the most significant one for the Palestinians, while they consider the right of return a bargaining chip”.
Arieli should know. He was an advisor to Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Barak during the Camp David Negotiations, and has since been deeply involved with the Geneva [Civil Society] Initiative and with Israel’s Council on Peace and Security.
Israel HaYom reported here that “On Monday, Abbas told Saudi newspaper Al-Watan that the PA ‘would not return to negotiations’ unless Israel agreed to a settlement freeze and accepted a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders. He said Israeli intransigence on this issue was preventing the diplomatic process from moving forward. The PA president told Al-Watan he was committed to east Jerusalem — captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War — as the future capital of the Palestinian state, and that there was ‘no room to compromise’ on this”.
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”…
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”.
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:
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…]
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”…? ]
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.
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.
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.
In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is one of its main proponents… It’s just that the time was never ripe, before. Or, that the Palestinians were doing something to prevent implementation of Netanyahu’s good intentions [which Palestinians believe is a way of distracting them from pursuing their political goals, such as self-determination].
In any case, here is an excerpt from remarks U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport just before leaving after a 42-hour visit to meet officials in Ramallah + Jerusalem. It was his first on-the-ground effort to prepare the way for eventual resumed Israeli-Palestinian talks:
“It’s our intention, and we all committed to this, every party, to continue our intensive discussions with the belief that they are constructive and they are in good faith, and that we intend to try to create the conditions for peace so that we can resume negotiations between the parties in a clear and precise, predetermined manner.
“We also spoke about other steps that could be taken in order to facilitate this process and to make it more conducive to success. Specifically, we agreed among us – President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and ourselves – that we are going to engage in new efforts, very specific efforts, to promote economic development and to remove some of the bottlenecks and barriers that exist with respect to commerce in the West Bank, to move very rapidly towards increased business expansion and private sector investment in the West Bank, all of which, we are convinced, will help improve the economic security of the people living there as well as improve the security of the people of Israel. Economic growth will help us be able to provide a climate, if you will, an atmosphere, within which people have greater confidence about moving forward. But I want to emphasize – I emphasize this very strongly: This is not in lieu of, or an alternative to, the political track. It is not a substitute. The political track remains the primary focus. But this is in addition to, in a way that could help to facilitate that track, and I believe will begin to take hold immediately. I held discussions regarding these efforts with both Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as with the Quartet representative Tony Blair, and other private sector business people. And this will be a focus of our work over the course of the next months in a very intensive way, and I will have more to say about this in the very near future…”
Kerry’s remarks at the airport before leaving the region today are posted here.
A veteran Israeli politician, Dan Meridor, who speaks in sober and measured tones, says that the Palestinians have twice [in 2000, and in 2008] rejected proposals that would have brought about a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Meridor explained, in an interview [published by Al-Monitor] with Mazal Mualem, chief political analyst of Maariv, why this convinces him that only an interim agreement is possible now:
Al-Monitor: Where did negotiations with the Palestinians disappear to in the last four years?
Meridor: “The election campaign here created the illusion as if there is no Palestinian problem. Except for [Tzipi] Livni, no-one talked about it. A kind of fallacy was created here, that we can live with the situation for generations, and that is definitely not correct. It is an anomaly. For forty-five years we have an anomaly, and it is not important who is right. I think that we are right, but things can’t continue this way. Therefore I hope that the government that will be formed now will deal with it seriously, because a continuation of the current situation is dangerous for Israel.
There is an illusion that since there is no terror, we can continue this way. I think that the thwarting of terror is not only our success, but also Abu Mazen’s strategy. But if we continue in the same path we are on today, without clear borders, in the end we’ll have one state from Jordan to the sea, and this, in my eyes, represents a threat to the entire Zionist vision. I think that the Palestinians also have an interest in changing the current situation”.
Al-Monitor: So what actually happened here?
Meridor: “Four years ago, we ‘had arrived’. [Former Prime Minister] Olmert proposed a final settlement. He offered [Palestinian Chairman] Abu Mazen the entire territory, including partitioning Jerusalem, thus bringing an end to the conflict. Abu Mazen didn’t accept it. That poses a very big question for us. Why didn’t Abu Mazen grab that proposal with two hands, after he had dedicated dozens of years of his life to the Palestinian issue?
I don’t have a definite answer, but the fact is that, until today, the two very far-reaching proposals submitted by Israel to bring, at last, an end to the conflict encountered Palestinian rejection. I was involved in one of them, with [then Prime Minister Ehud] Barak and [then Palestinian Chairman Yasser] Arafat in Camp David [in 2000]. The second one, proposed by Olmert, I also observed from close up. I am ready even tonight to sign an agreement, but I am not convinced that the Palestinian side is ready”.
What does he think should be done? Well, Meridor says that he does not want an interim [as opposed to final] agreement, but says that seems to be the only solution possible — at least for now. He says that Israel should announce an end to any further settlements [outside of Jerusalem, and already-existing settlements, which Israel intends to keep…]
And, he says, “We need to start to decide on the border, not to wait. An international agreement that is in the process of being formed is that the border will not be exactly like the 1967 borders, but will be based on 1967. That appears in Obama’s speech of two years ago, and appears in a letter from [then President] Bush to [then Prime Minister] Sharon. It even appears in the Geneva Accord of [Palestinian politician] Yasser Abd-Rabbo and [former Knesset Member] Yossi Beilin … Netanyahu delivered the Bar Ilan speech , then went to the Knesset and said: I want the [settlement] blocs and Jerusalem. We froze [construction in] the settlements for 10 months, but Abu Mazen didn’t come. Therefore I don’t blame Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu], precisely because we went far on this issue and you have to be fair”. These remarks are posted on the Al-Monitor website, here.
Now, the Palestinians have said they absolutely do not want either an interim agreement, or a provisional state [another aspect of the same proposal, nowadays]. They have also been astonished at the suggestion that both Yasser Arafat [in July 2000] and Mahmoud Abbas [in September 2008] said “No”. At least, they might agree, neither leader said “Yes”. That, they explain, is because the Americans [the brokers, both times] and the Israeli negotiators knew that these proposals did not meet the Palestinian bottom line. In 200 + 2001, Arafat was waiting for a better offer. In September 2008, Mahmoud Abbas was waiting for Ehud Olmert to be indicted on charges of corruption — so, the Palestinians concluded, Olmert’s offer wasn’t firm or reliable — and in any case a better offer might yet appear on the horizon. But, the Palestinian negotiators agree, they were close, at least in 2008. [We have reported here and on our sister blog, www.un-truth.com, that the differences were narrowed to something less than 3% of the West Bank territory.]
And, the Palestinian negotiators have said that they want negotiations to resume at the point they ended in 2008 [with the same proposals on the table] — but it is the Israeli government negotiators who have refused…
In advance of U.S. President Obama’s planned visit to the region on 20-22 March [during which Obama will reportedly spend about 3 hours in Ramallah, as compared to 45 hours in Israel] Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is reportedly planning to offer a “new” plan for arranging things with the current Palestinian leadership.
This has been heard before.
Meanwhile, the New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said, in a joint press conference in Washington with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, that he and President Obama were planning to visit the region in order to “listen”.
This has also been heard before.
Kerry bravely proceeded, anyway, saying that “the President is not prepared, at this point in time, to do more than to listen to the parties, which is why he has announced he’s going to go to Israel. It affords him an opportunity to listen. And I think we start out by listening and get a sense of what the current state of possibilities are and then begin to make some choices. It would be a huge mistake, almost an arrogant step, to suddenly be announcing this and that without listening first, so that’s what I intend to do, that’s what the President intends to do”.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Judeh said: “The most important thing is to have results. And I think that we’ve seen failed approaches, false starts, media events. I think we have to look at all of this and put it in perspective and see how we can produce results in the next phase. The Secretary and I are in full agreement that the window of opportunity on this is closing fast, and that makes it all the more important for us to work together in addressing this issue”.
[ Ynet is reporting here that on Thursday morning March 21, “Obama will depart for Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama will return to Jerusalem by noon, when he will be taken by Netanyahu to examine a model of Second Temple Period Jerusalem. They will continue to the Shrine of the Book, where Netanyahu will show him the Dead Sea Scrolls”… and so on].
Akiva Eldar reported in Al-Monitor here that high-level Likud officials believe that Netanyahu “really appears to want to jump-start diplomatic negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen in an attempt to bring about a long-term interim agreement. This, he feels, is because a final status settlement is not achievable in the coming years.”
Again, this has been heard before.
Not least of all when the same view was recently expressed by Netanyahu’s previous Foreign Minister, Alexander Lieberman.
The thing is, none of the Palestinian leadership, from Mahmoud Abbas to Khaled Meshaal of Hamas, will accept an interim or temporary agreement. They believe that Israel will continue to create facts on the ground, mainly in settlements in the West Bank, that will make the Palestinian state — and any solution — non-viable.
So, this will be an extremely irritating move, at least for the Palestinians — and, at best, a waste of time.
The UN Human Rights Council [HRC] in Geneva has just received a tough report that relies on international law to say that Israel’s settlements are illegal and must be evacuated.
We reported on reaction to this HRC report in late January on our sister blog, here.