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Monday
Sep202010

Israel-Palestine Memories: Prime Minister Olmert's 2008 Offer and the Palestinian Response 

On Sunday, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that if the current Israel-Palestine talks are to succeed, the agreement would have to resemble the plan the Palestinians turned down two years ago in negotiations.

Israel offered the Palestinians close to 94 percent of the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and holy sites governed jointly by Israel, the Palestinians, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the US. In addition, less than 20,000 refugees would have returned Israel and 100,000 Palestinians would be given US citizenship.

Olmert blamed the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for no resolution: "There is no choice but to say that this agreement was not achieved when that was possible because the Palestinian side was not prepared to make the extra step that I believe we made."

The Palestinians have a different recollection. In March 2010, their top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told an audience at the University of Birmingham that a counter-proposal had been offered to Olmert and nothing had been received in return.

Erekat said that, although satellite images show that 1.2% of the West Bank is occupied by Israeli settlements, the Olmert government provided a map in December 2008 annexing 6.5% of the West Bank for settlements. The PA's Abbas tabled a counter-map approving an Israeli annexation of 1.9% of the area.

Answering Olmert's accusation, Erekat said that it was the Gaza War in December 2008 and not a Palestinian walkout that collapsed negotiations:

On December 18th [2008], we went to Washington, we met with President Bush ad Secretary [of State] Rice. And we told them that these are the two maps we have exchanged.... President Bush asked President Abbas to send someone to Washington on January 2, 2009. And President Abbas old him, "I will send Saeb Erekat." And he called Prime Minister Olmert and said him, "I need you to send someone from Israel." Prime Minister agreed and said, "I will send Shalom Turgeman", my counterpart. Unfortunately on December 27th, instead of preparing to go to Washington, the Israelis went to Gaza, in a war. That is the truth.

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