Condoleezzaa Rice's new book revisits Olmert-Abbas near-breakthrough in 2008

A new book by U.S. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice revisits the “Annapolis process” of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks that she personally shepherded. She places the date of near-breakthrough proposals from Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as May 2008 — four months earlier than most accounts have previously reported.

The AP had an interview with Rice to coincide with the publication of her memoir, No Higher Honor, today: “Rice’s account confirms then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s claim that he had laid out a comprehensive proposal for peace during secret meetings with Rice and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas … In the book, Rice recounts a private dinner with Olmert in May 2008 when she said he presented the plan. It contained ways to address the most difficult issues preventing Israel and the Palestinians from agreeing on terms for a separate Palestinian state, she wrote. Olmert proposed a system for shared jurisdiction of Jerusalem and return of a limited number of Palestinians who left their homes in what is now Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948, Rice wrote. Olmert also would end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and hand over about 94 percent of the territory to the Palestinians for the bulk of their state, she wrote. ‘Concentrate, concentrate’, Rice describes herself as thinking as Olmert spoke. ‘This is unbelievable’.”

The AP story is headlined: “Mideast peace prospects [have] worsened under Obama”.

This AP interview as Condoleezza Rice’s book is published here.

Rice claims, as many media accounts do, that the Obama Administration raised the bar too high by its early adoption of a demand for a settlement freeze after which direct negotiations would resume. This, she [like most media accounts] says, was the main problem that blocked the possibility of resuming direct Israeli-Palestinian talks — which, she implies [backing the Palestinian position on this point] should have resumed at the point they were broken off.

Now, she said, the lack of talks is the the main factor in the dangerous increase in tension in the region.

The Washington Post also published this AP story, which quoted Rice as saying: “I do think focusing on settlements in that particular way was a mistake … The parties then were able to have a reason not to sit down … and they’re running out of time … When they’re not talking, they’re sliding backward”.

This is posted here.

Geneva Intiative input into Annapolis negotiations

Haaretz reporters Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid have published an account of a meeting of the Israeli team that supports the Geneva Initiative between Israeli and Palestinian civil society (in December 2003) that gives a glimpse into what happened in the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under the Annapolis process in 2008. This account also explains why Israel’s then-Prime Ehud Olmert was looking for information from the experts who had worked on drafting the Geneva Intiative.

Here is an extended excerpt from the Haaretz article:

    “I do not believe that in the foreseeable future there is a possibility of an agreement with the Palestinians on all the issues, especially on the problematic core issues,” says Udi Dekel, who headed the negotiations task force in the previous government. Dekel spoke on Thursday at a conference on the unofficial “Geneva Initiative” peace plan … He was highly critical of the negotiating tactics of former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in their dealings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of his negotiating team, Ahmed Qureia. “The biggest mistake was that everything was based on the premise that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” Dekel said. “We thought at the time that this could provide the necessary flexibility in the negotiations, but in practice, every time someone showed flexibility, the other side tried to pin him down. Therefore, I suggest that the model be changed and that whatever is agreed is implemented.”

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