Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Ereqat reveals that PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas refused an offer by the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to establish an independent Palestinian on an area equal in size to the West Bank and Gaza, with a 6.5% land swap to accommodate the settlement blocs.That account seems to support Olmert's version of what he offered Abbas.
Ereqat said that the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat had instructed him to uphold the Palestinians' full rights, including their right to all the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Jerusalem, 37 kilometers of Dead Sea coast, 46 kilometers of no man's land between Latrun and Jerusalem, the right of return for the refugees and a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza. Ereqat added that Abbas had given him similar instructions, and emphasized that no Palestinian would give up these rights. If Israel rejects the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, he concluded, it will be left only with the option of a bi-national state.
In an interview in Novermber 2009, Olmert says he met with Abbas over 35 times--and made the following proposals to Abbas:
o 1967 Borders: Territorial solution to the conflict on the basis of the 1967 borders with minor modifications on both sides. Israel will claim part of the West Bank where there have been demographic changes over the last 40 years. This would have involved Israel claiming about 6.4 per cent of Palestinian territory in the West Bank. All the lands that before 1967 were buffer zones between the two populations would have been split in half. In return there would be a swap of land (to the Palestinians) from Israel as it existed before 1967. Olmert proposed a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza--a tunnel fully controlled by the Palestinians but not under Palestinian sovereignty, otherwise it would have cut the state of Israel in two.
o Jerusalem. Olmert agreed that the city should be shared. Jewish neighbourhoods would be under Jewish sovereignty, Arab neighbourhoods would be under Palestinian sovereignty, so it could be the capital of a Palestinian state.
o Palestinian refugees. Olmert told Abbas he would never agree to a right of return. Instead, on a humanitarian basis Israel would accept a certain number every year for five years, on the basis that this would be the end of conflict and the end of claims. Olmert suggested 1000 per year. In addition, there would be an international fund that would compensate Palestinians for their suffering.
o Security issues. Olmert says he showed Abbas a map, which embodied all these plans. Abbas wanted to take the map away. Olmert agreed, so long as they both signed the map. It was, from Olmert's point of view, a final offer, not a basis for future negotiation. But Abbas could not commit. Instead, he said he would come with experts the next day.
According to Olmert, Abbas's response was similar to his response to being invited to peace talks--Abbas ran:
"He (Abbas) promised me the next day his adviser would come. But the next day Saeb Erekat rang my adviser and said we forgot we are going to Amman today, let's make it next week. I never saw him again."
In light of Erekat's confirmation that Abbas refused Olmert's offer, it is worthwhile noting Olmert's own suggestion for what Israel should demand of Abbas before agreeing to return to the negotiating table:
Thanks to Erekat, we now know that Abbas in fact did say 'no'."To this day we should ask Abu Mazen to respond to this plan. If they (the Palestinians) say no, there's no point negotiating."
So: what's the point?
Technorati Tag: Mideast Peace Talks.