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…]


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”…? ]


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.

Yaakov Katz on the new Netanyahu government – the Sayeret Matkal (elite military unit) connection

The Jerusalem Post’s correspondent with excellent military contacts has written today that, with the imminent inauguration of Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s next Prime Minikster, a “Sayeret Matkal trio” will be taking the reins of power.

Katz wrote that “[Ehud] Barak, Israel’s most decorated soldier, was the commander of the IDF’s most elite unit, known by its Hebrew name, Sayeret Matkal. Netanyahu, whose brother Yoni later became commander of the unit and was killed during the 1976 raid on Entebbe, was a junior team leader under Barak’s command in the early 1970s. With the swearing-in of the new government on Tuesday, the relationship between Barak and Netanyahu has changed – Netanyahu, the new prime minister, is the commander in chief. Barak … as the defense minister, he will have to carry out missions assigned by Netanyahu. Netanyahu and Barak are not the only members of the new government with origins in the army’s most elite unit. Moshe ‘Bogie’ Ya’alon, the former chief of staff slated to become the minister of strategic affairs, served as commander of the unit between 1987 and 1989. This Sayeret Matkal trio will now be leading the country’s defense and security apparatuses at a time when some of the most critical decisions in the country’s history will have to be made – from whether to use military force to stop Iran’s race toward nuclear power, to the Hizbullah threat in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip … As former members of Sayeret Matkal, the Netanyahu-Barak-Ya’alon trio carried out some of Israel’s most covert and complicated operations – some of which are still classified”. This article can be read in full here.

Continue reading Yaakov Katz on the new Netanyahu government – the Sayeret Matkal (elite military unit) connection

Tzipi Livni speaks in part for moderate Palestinians, she says

The Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said today that “we decided to launch negotiations (with the current Palestinian leadership in Ramallah) because it is important to reach an agreement with the pragmatic moderates” who believe in a solution with two states – Israel and Palestine — living side-by-side in peace and security.

Livni, who is also deputy Prime Minister, is in charge of Israel´s direct negotiations with the Palestinians.

The head of the Palestinian team is Ahmad Qurei´a (known as Abu Alaa) who participated in the secret “Oslo” track that led to the 1993 diplomatic recognition between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and to a series of “Oslo Accords” that in many but not all aspects are no longer actually in effect.

The two sides have agreed to keep all details of their discussions secret, and there have so far been few if any leaks of what has been happening behind closed doors. But, Livni said, in answer to a question, that she now has “a better understanding of the sensitivities and what is important to them. And I discovered that they are very suspicious when it comes to Israel”.

Now, she said, “we have started to draft part of the agreement, and I also hope they know more about Israeli concerns”:

Livni was speaking at a briefing in Jerusalem on Thursday organized by the Foreign Press Association in Israel

Before even being asked, Livni said she wanted to address the question of whether there could still be an agreement by the end of the year. She said “a timeline is important, but [even] more important is the content. Any attempt to bridge the gap (between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators) which is premature to bridge, or any attempt to avoid the comprehensive agreement we want to reach, can lead to clashes, misunderstandings, and violence”.

Livni said that this is what happened after the failed Camp David peace talks in July 2000, which ended with recriminations and blame – mostly on the Palestinians for not having responded to what was called a major concession by Israel´s then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

A provocative visit by Ariel Sharon accompanied by a large and armed Israeli security contingent to the Haram as-Sharif/Temple Mount in East Jerusalem´s Old City a few months later, in late September 2000, ended in clashes with Palestinian protesters, a number of Palestinian deaths and injuries– and the outbreak of the Second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which was characterized by clashes between the Israeli military and the newly-created and armed Palestinian security forces, then a determined Israeli assault on these same forces, accompanied by a re-invasion of Palestinian urban areas. It is only very recently that the U.S. has been helping to retrain and rebuild the Palestinian security capacity – and only to the extent to which Israel permits.

“Here I represent not only the Israeli Government but also the Palestinians, and if we can reach agreement, the international community should respect it. We are working on a comprehensive agreement on the core issues, which will give answers to the concerns of both sides,” Livni told reporters.

It was surprising to hear Livni telling journalists that she was also representing specific points in the Palestinian position. It did not appear to have been a slip of the tongue, but rather a deliberate statement arrived at in prior consultation. Pressing the point, Livni repeated the same formula a little later in the press conference.

“The aspiration of the Palestinians is to have a state that includes the Gaza Strip”, Livni said. She added that if she said anything else, “I would be blamed of doing something against the Palestinian interest – this is what we were accused of before our withdrawal from Gaza[in 2005].”

But the Oslo Accords never even mentioned the words Palestinian State, and only laid out in great detail an interim period that theoretically should have ended in 1999, which should have led to “final status” talks. It was only since the beginning of this year that Israel reported that “core issues” and “final status” matters are now being negotiated between Livni and Qurei´a.

Livni admitted today that “it took some time” in Israel to accept the idea of “dividing the land”. Now, she said, she believes that the former left-vs-right divide in Israeli politics is “something that belongs to the past. Two states is in Israel´s interest, and represents [the will] not only of the government but of the entire Israeli people”.

Livni indicated that in the negotiations, “Everybody is using the formula, and this is the basic understanding between Israel and the Palestinians: two states for two peoples. Israel is the homeland for the Jewish people [– “this is the raison d´etre of the State of Israel”, she added seconds later –] and the Palestinian state will be the homeland for the Palestinians”

“The answer to the [Palestinian] refugee problem is the creation of a Palestinian state”, Livni said. “But unfortunately some Arab and Palestinian leaders are calling for two states but also demanding the right of return to Israel, which is the Jewish state. This is not a theoretical question. This is the basic understanding [between the two negotiating teams] And this is one of the two basic pillars … the other of course is Israel’s security.”

She said that “the borders should not be vague – or say only 1967 lines, plus or minus a percentage. No, we need outlines on the map, so that the day after the agreement there will be no misunderstanding”.

And, Livni said, for Israel, “it is important to know what will be on the other side of these borders … and to know that it´s demilitarized”.

What we cannot afford, she said, is “a failed state or a terror state”.

Livni added that “We have no hidden agenda – a future Palestinian state includes the West Bank and Gaza. This is the Palestinian aspiration. But in order to create a state, they need to give an answer to the situation on the ground”.

Hamas is currently in control in the Gaza Strip.

Livni did not say what she thought should be done about that. Israel has recently concluded a kind of truce (“tahdia”) with Hamas, but has apparently ambivalent views about actually dealing directly with Hamas, something which the U.S. rejects rather more categorically.

Livni has several times in recent months described her view of an overall scenario where “extremists” – and in this group she includes Iran and Iranian-backed Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, but not Syria – as getting stronger.

The task, and the remedy, as she describes it, is to reinforce the “moderates”.

“In Annapolis we decided to negotiate with pragmatic Palestinians”, Livni explained. A simultaneous decision was made, she said, “to delegitimize Hamas and keep the pressure on them” – that is, unless they accept the right of Israel to exist, end terror and violence, and accept the former agreements reached in the Oslo process between Israel and Palestinians, Livni indicated.

She suggested that “since there is no hope with Hamas”, the negotiators are working for what is being called a “shelf agreement”.

Acting very much like a candidate for leadership of the Kadima party to replace the current party leader – and Prime Minister – Ehud Olmert, Livni appeared to be trying to re-cast what is now called in Israel the “Second Lebanon War”.

She suggested that war is a much easier and cleaner affair when the protagonists are states.

Drawing a hypothetical future parallel with the Palestinian situation, Livni said that between two states there could be misunderstandings, and even war. “The Lebanon war could have been ended in a few days if it had just been between states”, she said. “But with a terror organization it is completely different”

Acting for a moment as a candidate for higher office, Livni appeared to criticize the involvement if not predominance of the Israeli military in decision-making – and this appeared to be a reference to the widely-criticized conduct of the Second Lebanon War. Livni said that “The Israeli Prime Minister needs to understand the threats and trends in the region. Preparation is needed, and not only of the army….There are different options, and the Prime Minister needs to put on the table what is the goal of Israel, what are the options, and to choose from then. Then [and only then], we [the political leadership] should ask our military experts what is best, after already choosing between the options”.

Acting very much like a candidate for leadership of the Kadima party to replace the current party leader – and Prime Minister — Ehud Olmert, Livni appeared to be trying to re-cast what is now called in Israel the “Second Lebanon War”.

Livni said that in 2006, “It was important for Israel and the international community not to undermine the Lebanese Government, and we worked against Hizballah in south Lebanon only”.

Now, she said, Hizballah is getting stronger in Lebanon, and is part of the government, so the international community should ask “for state responsibility for the situation in Lebanon”.

She repeated Israeli complaints that the arms embargo contained in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 is “not being enforced”.

UN Security Council resolution 1701 says that there should be “no sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its Government”. But, now that Hizballah is part of the government, is this Israeli criticism still legitimate?