Friday, May 24, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler 5/24/13: Does Current Mideast Chaos Mean Olmert's Offer To Abbas Gone Forever?

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) Missing another opportunity to miss an opportunity

Yesterday, The Tower published an exclusive story about the peace deal that Ehud Olmert offered Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 but that Abbas never accepted.

Today Isacharoff follows up with more detail in Olmert: ‘I am still waiting for Abbas to call’ – If This Offer Wasn’t Enough, How Can Anyone Believe The Palestinians Will Ever Say ‘Yes’?. Towards the end, Isacharoff quotes Olmert:

“In the last meeting I brought a big map, like the size of this whole table,” recalls Olmert. “With colors for all the regions that go over to us and the reverse. We would receive 6.3%, they would get 5.8%, but they also get a safe passage in a tunnel between Gaza and the West Bank that was the equivalent in territory of the remaining half percent. Territories that were considered no-man’s-land before 1967 would be divided 50-50. Ariel would stay with us, and a network of tunnels would go under the Trans Samaria Highway to ease the passage of Palestinians in that area. Similarly for the areas of A-Zaim and Hizmeh, since I was insisting on E-1. There would be a tunnel that would enable Palestinians to have quick passage between Bethlehem and Ramallah, despite our control over the territory, and so their territorial contiguity would not be impaired.” 
“At the same time, I gave Abbas territories in the Beit Sh’ean Valley, next to Tirat Zvi, not far from Afula, in the area of Lachish, in the area of Katna (next to Har Adar), the northern Judean desert and the area around the Gaza Strip. I completely gave up on having an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley. That was because I could protect the line of the Jordan River 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.”
Olmert, Bush and Abbas
Olmert, Bush and Abbas at Annapolis, Md., Nov. 27,2007.
Photo courtesy of US Navy

Among the other concessions Olmert proposed were the ceding control of the Temple Mount to an international administration (consisting of the United Stastes, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Palestine) and allowing 5000 Palestinians to be repatriated to Israel. The report is consistent - though more detailed than previous reporting on the negotiations. Ethan Bronner citing Olmert's memoirs and an interview with the ex-Prime Minister reported a similar account in 2011.

Isacharoff observes regarding Olmert's plan to cede the Jordan Valley to the Palestinians.
Today, such an offer, particularly as it relates to the Jordan Valley, is all but inconceivable. 
Given the chaos that has swept the Middle East since that potentially historic night in September 2008 – with security now deteriorating or having collapsed in every country bordering Israel – Olmert’s offer contains elements that are now simply incompatible with fundamental Israeli interests.
The observation is interesting because in contrasts with an op-ed Olmert wrote for the New York Times in September, 2011, Peace - now or never, regarding the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations.
We Israelis simply do not have the luxury of spending more time postponing a solution. A further delay will only help extremists on both sides who seek to sabotage any prospect of a peaceful, negotiated two-state solution. 
Moreover, the Arab Spring has changed the Middle East, and unpredictable developments in the region, such as the recent attack on Israel’s embassy in Cairo, could easily explode into widespread chaos. It is therefore in Israel’s strategic interest to cement existing peace agreements with its neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.
Isacharoff's observation refutes Olmert's claim. The uncertainty in the Middle East makes the risks of concessions greater. More generally, the Palestinian Authority's weakness means that any concessions Israel makes have to assume that Hamas could well come to power in the not too distant future.

2) Saving the children of enemies

Ten years ago, following the war that deposed Saddam Hussein, Israeli doctors operated on and saved an Iraqi infant with a severe heart defect.

Now the same Israeli organization, Save a Child's Heart, has recently saved a young Syrian girl.
The mother told reporters she was hesitant about coming to Israel because it is an enemy country to Syria but also said the only thing that mattered for her was having the opportunity to save her daughter’s life. 
... “We kept taking her to doctors and to the hospital but nothing could be done for her,” the mother said. “She couldn’t run and play like other children and she was very sick most of the time.” 
Dr. Lior Sasson, one of the physicians to volunteer with the SACH medical team, said the child was in grave condition when she arrived in Israel and would not have survived much longer. “Without the surgery, she could have died within a few months, maybe even weeks,” he said.
Save a Child's Heart boasts:
Since 1995, Save a Child's Heart (SACH) has treated more than 3,000 children suffering from congenital and rheumatic heart disease aging from infancy to 18 years of age from the “four corners of the Earth” - 45 countries where adequate medical care is unavailable. 
Approximately 50% of the children are from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Morocco; more than 30% are from Africa; and the remaining are from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas.
Israel is regularly condemned in some venues as a racist state. Organizations like Save a Child's Heart show that the claim is absolutely false.

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