by Ezequiel Doiny
On November 22, the Tower Magazine reported that “Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has publicly confirmed for the first time that he turned down a peace offer in 2008 that would have provided for an independent Palestinian state containing all of the Gaza Strip, much of the West Bank (with land swaps), and a tunnel connecting the two areas.
Abbas made his comments in an interview on Israel’s Channel 10, which has been broadcasting a three-part series on the peace talks of 2000 and 2008. According to both Abbas and Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister in 2008, Olmert presented Abbas in September of that year with a map that delineated the borders of the future State of Palestine. Abbas said that he “rejected it out of hand” because he claimed not to be an expert on maps, and because Olmert’s domestic scandals meant that he would shortly leave office (Olmert was later convicted of corruption). While both Olmert and other Palestinian leaders have previously said that Abbas turned down a peace proposal, this is the first time that the Palestinian Authority president has admitted as such.
At 24:05 of the video, Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker asked Abbas: “In the map that Olmert presented you, Israel would annex 6.3 percent [of the West Bank] and compensate the Palestinians with 5.8 percent [taken from pre-1967 Israel]. What did you propose in return?”
“I did not agree,” Abbas replied. “I rejected it out of hand.”
At 26:53 of the video, Drucker pressed again:
Drucker: Why, really, did you not accept Olmert’s offer?
Abbas: He [Olmert] said to me, “Here’s a map. See it? That’s all.” I respected his decision not to give me the map. But how can we sign something that hasn’t been given us, that hasn’t been discussed?
The existence of the peace offer was first reported by The Tower’s Avi Issacharoff in 2013, when Olmert told him that he presented Abbas with a map proposal during talks at the Prime Minister’s Residence. Shortly after Olmert’s presentation, Abbas redrew that version of the map from memory, in order to make sure that he and Olmert were on the same page. Issacharoff acquired a photograph of that map…
As Issacharoff wrote:
Abbas silenced those present so that he could concentrate. He wanted to sketch out Olmert’s map from memory. The Israeli Prime Minister had told him that as long as Abu Mazen did not sign his initials to the map and endorse it, Olmert would not hand over a copy. Abu Mazen took a piece of letterhead of the Presidential Office and drew on it the borders of the Palestinian state as he remembered them.
Abbas marked the settlement blocks that Israel would retain: The Ariel bloc, the Jerusalem-Maaleh Adumim bloc (including E1), and Gush Etzion. A total of 6.3% of the West Bank. Then Abbas also drew the territories that Israel proposed to offer in their place: In the area of Afula-Tirat Zvi, in the Lachish area, the area close to Har Adar, and in the Judean desert and the Gaza envelope. A total of 5.8% of the West Bank. Abu Mazen wrote on the left side of the letterhead the numbers as he incorrectly remembered them (6.8% and 5.5%), and on the back he wrote the rest of the details of the proposal: Safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank via a tunnel, the pentilateral committee to administer the Holy Basin, the removal of the Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and the absorption of 5,000 Palestinian refugees, 1,000 each year over five years, inside the Green Line.
Abbas’ hand-drawn map, sketched on the stationery of the Palestinian Office of the President and obtained by TheTower.org in the course of this investigative report about the clandestine negotiation between Olmert and Abbas, was published here yesterday exclusively. The two men met 36 times, mostly in Jerusalem and once in Jericho, and arrived at a formula that was to be the basis for a lasting agreement between the two parties. But in the end, peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians were not signed, despite the far-reaching proposal made by Olmert. As an official matter, the Palestinian Authority has not responded.
The next day, Abbas called off talks, saying that he had to attend a meeting in Jordan.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat had a similar recollection when interviewed by Al Jazeera in 2009:
Olmert, who talked today about his proposal to Abu Mazen, offered the 1967 borders, but said: “We will take 6.5% of the West Bank, and give in return 5.8% from the 1948 lands, and the 0.7% will constitute the safe passage, and East Jerusalem will be the capital, but there is a problem with the Haram and with what they called the Holy Basin.” Abu Mazen too answered with defiance, saying: “I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem, or from the holy Christian and Muslim places. This is why the Palestinian negotiators did not sign.
Abbas’ comments on Channel 10 were first picked up in English by veteran reporter Mark Lavie.
On November 2011 the investigativeproject.org reported that “In her new memoir, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirms that Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas rejected generous territorial concessions offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008.
When she traveled to Jerusalem in May 2008, Olmert invited Rice to dinner to outline his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Rice recounts that she was shocked by how far the Israeli leader was willing to go. Olmert was prepared to give up nearly the entire West Bank and to divide Jerusalem with the Arab world.
Olmert offered to make Jerusalem the capital of two states – Israel in the western part and a Palestinian capital in the east. The Old City of Jerusalem would be administered by a committee made up of so-called wise people including Palestinians, Jordanians, Saudis, Americans and Israelis.
“They will oversee the city, but not in a political role,” Olmert told Rice. And he offered another concession – offering to allow 5,000 Palestinian refugees to settle in Israel.
Rice was incredulous. “Am I really hearing this? I wondered. Is the Israeli prime minister saying that he’ll divide Jerusalem and put an international body in charge of the Holy sites?”
The following day, Rice brought Olmert’s proposal to Abbas in Ramallah. He rejected it, telling Rice the PA could not agree to a deal that prevented nearly 4 million Palestinians from being able to “go home” (i.e., to return to their ancestors’ former homes in pre-Six Day War Israel).
On Sep. 16, 2008, Olmert presented Abbas with a similar plan for a two-state solution. The Palestinians said no, effectively killing the Olmert plan.
More detail on the breakdown of the talks comes from the Palestine Papers – documents about a decade of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that were stolen from PA negotiator Saeb Erakat’s office, leaked to al-Jazeerah and posted on the media outlet’s website in January.
As the Jerusalem Post noted on Tuesday, these documents show that PA negotiators talked out of both sides of their mouths – speaking publicly about compromise with Israel on Palestinian refugees while privately describing the “right of return” as an individual right that must be extended to 7 million Palestinians – a formula most Israelis regard as a demographic blueprint for the destruction of their country.
The documents also show that Washington was apparently unaware that, in preparation for the September 16 meeting, the PA was trying to come up with plans to avoid reaching a binding agreement with Israel and to avoid blame for failing reach a final-status agreement with the Jewish state.”
Abbas rejected Olmert’s offer because it would have required him to give up on the “right of return” for most Palestinians. Lt. Col. (ret) Jonathan Halevi explained in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that Abbas supports a phased plan for Israel’s destruction “…Beneath the moderate guise that Abbas tries to project is a Palestinian leader who unreservedly supports terror and demands to implement what the Palestinians call the “right of return.”
…What the Palestinians mean by “right of return” according to Resolution 194 and the Arab Peace Initiative is simple enough and was ratified as an official law by the Palestinian parliament with Abbas’s approval.
According to the 2008 Law of the Right of Return of the Palestinian Refugees:
“The right of return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and property, while receiving compensation for their suffering, is an inalienable and enshrined right that cannot be compromised, replaced, reconsidered, interpreted otherwise, or subjected to a referendum.
The right of return is natural, personal, collective, civil, political, passed on from father to son; it is not nullified by the passage of time or by the signing of any agreement and it cannot be abolished or waived in any way.
The Palestinian refugees shall not be resettled or displaced as an alternative to the right of return.
Anyone who violates the provisions of this Act shall be guilty of the crime of treason and will be subject to all criminal and civil penalties prescribed for this crime.
Anything that contradicts this law is considered null and void, and any legislation or agreement that will derogate from the right of return or contradict the provisions of this Act shall be deemed null and void.”
In other words, even after an Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders and the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state, the conflict will remain unchanged and Palestine will demand the “return” to Israel of the millions of refugees and their descendants. The Palestinian demand for “return” entails the transfer of millions of Jews from their homes and the end of the state of Israel…”
Even though it was Abbas who rejects the two state solution and rejected Olmert’s peace-offer in 2008, Obama and Kerry blame Israeli settlement construction for the collapse of talks and increase of Palestinian terror.
On October 16 Elliot Abrams wrote in Mosaic Magazine that “Secretary of State Kerry made an unhelpful, mistaken, ill-informed comment about the current wave of Palestinian violence yesterday when speaking at Harvard.
Here is the comment Kerry made:
“So here’s the deal. What’s happening is that unless we get going, a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody. And there’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years. Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing, and a frustration among Israelis who don’t see any movement.”
Kerry does not know what he is talking about. There has simply not been “a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years.” There has been a steady growth in settlement population, though the bulk of that growth is in the major blocs–such as Ma’ale Adumim–that Israel will clearly retain in any final agreement. Kerry’s imprecision is another problem. Does he mean there has been a massive increase in the number of settlements? That’s flatly false. Does he mean a massive increase in settlement size, as existing settlements expand physically? That’s also flatly false. The so-called “peace map” or “Google Earth map” of the West Bank has changed very little.
The frequent Palestinian claim that Israel is “gobbling up” the West Bank so that “peace will be impossible” is what Kerry is here repeating when he says “a two-state solution could conceivably be stolen from everybody.” It’s a false claim and he should know it. If that is not what Kerry meant, he should be far more careful when he speaks about such an explosive topic–and at such an explosive moment.
Moreover, his claim is plain silly. The slow but steady growth in population in settlements is a completely unpersuasive explanation for the sudden outbreak of violence. That outburst of violence and terror appears linked to lies about Israel changing the status quo at the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif. But whatever its explanation, the false linkage to settlements is of a piece with the Obama administration’s continuing obsession with that subject–despite all the evidence. It’s remarkable that the Secretary of State, who has spent so much time with Israelis and Palestinians and has visited Jerusalem repeatedly, has not bothered to learn the basic facts. He is instead parroting Palestinian propaganda. In fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been under pressure and criticism from settler groups because he has restrained settlement population growth beyond the security barrier. To suffer those political attacks and then hear criticism from the secretary of state about a “massive increase in settlements” helps explain the lack of confidence Israeli officials feel in the Obama administration.
Mr. Kerry is doing something else here that is even worse: blaming the victims. The State Department has of course condemned acts of terror, but here in a question and answer period we get beyond official statements and see what Kerry really appears to think. He seems to believe that the real culprits, when Palestinians stab Israelis to death, are people who build a new housing unit in a settlement.
The Kerry remarks at Harvard were morally obtuse and factually wrong.”
Kerry lies when he says that settlement construction is an obstacle to peace. Settlements occupy now about 1.7% of the West Bank and during Olmert’s term they occupied about 1.6%, new homes were built inside existing settlement land, no new land was taken, there was virtually no expansion outside previous areas. As blogger Elder of Zion wrote “ …how the ~1.7% of settlement land today makes peace so much harder than ~1.6% 20 years ago?”
On November 10 blogger Elder of Zion wrote “At Binyamin Netanyahu’s appearance at the Center for American Progress, he said that the settlements were not an obstacle to peace.
He answered that “There have been no new settlements built in the past 20 years.The additions have been in existing communities. The map has not materially changed.”
I’m not sure if that is 100% true; I know of three formerly illegal outposts that became legal, and I cannot imagine that there haven’t been more illegal outposts in 20 years that have escaped being demolished. But the larger point is true – there has been essentially no new settlements, as opposed to how they are characterized. and Netanyahu said this:
“By the way, Google this. Because this is just repeated, ad nauseum, so it assumes the cachet of self-evident truth, that we’re ‘gobbling up land’ and so on. We’re not gobbling up land….I mean the total amount of built up land is just a few percent. And the addition, if you look at it over time, it’s got to be a fraction – maybe one tenth of one percent? Maybe I’m off, maybe it’s 3/10ths of one percent. That’s the land that’s being “gobbled up.” That’s a factual question. That is not something that should be debated. And yet it’s become an axiom, that we are gobbling up land. We’re not.”
…(In response to Netanyahu’s statement, Peace Now wrote) “The “one percent argument” is a classic example of how supporters of the status-quo use a fraction of the truth to misrepresent the truth on the ground in the West Bank. Yes, the actual built-up area of West Bank settlements takes up only a little more than 1% of the West Bank. But the settlements’ built-up area is just the tip of the settlements iceberg. The impact of the settlements goes far beyond this 1%.
Almost 10% of the West Bank is included in the “municipal area,” or the jurisdictional borders of the settlements. These borders are so large that they allow settlements to expand many times over onto land that is completely off-limits to Palestinians.
In addition, almost 34% of the West Bank has been placed under the jurisdiction of the settlements’ “Regional Councils.” That is, more than an additional 1/3 of the West Bank has been placed under the control of the settlers, off-limits to Palestinians.
In total, more than 40% of the West Bank is under the direct control of settlers or settlements and off-limits to Palestinians, regardless of the fact that only a small portion of this land has been built on by settlers.”
Elder of Zion responded “Let’s say that this is 100% true. Then this means that Peace Now agrees that there has been no fundamental change in the West Bank map since the PLO rejected Israeli peace offers of 93%-95% of the land in 2001 and 2008!
Somehow, the 40% Israel controls didn’t stop Barak and Olmert from offering nearly the entire West Bank for a Palestinian state. If they could offer it, so could the current Israeli government. So the 40% figure is a red herring, meant to obscure the fact that the intransigent party is the Palestinian side.
…Peace Now and J-Street know this. If you read their literature you can see that they try very hard to distract their readers from these facts by mentioning things that aren’t relevant. Their central claim to raise cash, that Israel – and especially the reviled Likud government of Netanyahu – is gobbling up land is shown to be a lie.
Yet this Peace Now and J-Street lie of Israel “gobbling up land” is repeated without any shame by the White House, by the New York Times, and by many other sources who don’t even bother to read Peace Now reports with a critical eye. Because their own documentation proves their public lies!”
Arutz 7 reported that “US Secretary of State John Kerry asserted Wednesday that the escalating wave of Arab terror in Israel showcases what would be in store if the Palestinian Arabs were not to achieve statehood.
During a speech in Washington, Kerry emphasized the United States’ commitment to advancing the two-state solution, which he called “the only viable alternative.”
…Stressing that unrest and violence have hurt both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, Kerry contended “the current situation is simply not sustainable.”…
Kerry calls the situation “not sustainable” yet Abbas said that “…the Palestinians can wait without making concessions in part because “the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”
On May 29, 2009 CAMERA reported that “Washington Post Deputy Editorial Editor Jackson Diehl recounts his recent conversation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in today’s issue of the newspaper.
It seems that yet again Israel offered Palestinians a state on virtually the entire West Bank, and yet again a Palestinian leader — this time the one widely described as moderate — rejected the offer.
In our meeting Wednesday, Abbas acknowledged that Olmert had shown him a map proposing a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank — though he complained that the Israeli leader refused to give him a copy of the plan. He confirmed that Olmert “accepted the principle” of the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees — something no previous Israeli prime minister had done — and offered to resettle thousands in Israel. In all, Olmert’s peace offer was more generous to the Palestinians than either that of Bush or Bill Clinton; it’s almost impossible to imagine Obama, or any Israeli government, going further.
Abbas turned it down. “The gaps were wide,” he said.
Diehl also quotes Abbas as rejecting, again, the notion that he should recognize Israel as the Jewish state, and as saying that the Palestinians can wait without making concessions in part because “the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”
On January 2016, Elder of Zion wrote “While UNRWA employees are told to push the narrative of how awful life is for Palestinians, the UNRWA website that tries to attract employees completely contradicts the description of “limited rights, restricted movement and an Occupation:”
Working for UNRWA in the West Bank is challenging and rewarding. Jerusalem is a family-friendly duty station.
Public transportation is very common in the West Bank. Local residents use either buses, taxis, or their private cars when commuting to the various locations in the West Bank, which are generally easily accessible.
… An increasing number of cafes, restaurants and hotels have wireless internet connections.
Generally speaking for international staff, living in the West Bank is a remarkable experience with many highlights including the kindness and generosity of the people and the incredible array of sites to explore that are of historical and religious significance. … This duty station is otherwise known for its accessibility to modern facilities including shopping centres, gyms, and swimming pools in Jerusalem and Ramallah. There are also many coffee shops and bars that provide special menus in a fabulous atmosphere.
While UNRWA writes reports about how terrible the water situation is in the West Bank, they tell employees to enjoy the fabulous swimming pools available to all Palestinians.
While UNRWA tells the world that checkpoints are oppressive, it tells its employees that travel through those checkpoints for local residents is easy.
The entire reason that NGO workers love to work in the West Bank is because it is safe, because they have easy access to all the amenities of modern life – and because Israel won’t do anything to them when they write report after report on how terrible life is there.”
In 2013 Kerry told the Foreign Affairs Committee “I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting,” the secretary of state said. “I think we have some period of time – a year to year-and-a-half to two years, or it’s over.”
He added: “Everybody I talk to in the region and all of the supporters globally who care … want us to move forward on a peace effort. They’re all worried about the timing here. So there’s an urgency to this, in my mind, and I intend, on behalf of the president’s instructions, to honour that urgency and see what we can do to move forward.”
Although the conflict exists since 1948, Kerry claims there is an “urgency” to solve it in a short two year window because Obama’s term in office is coming to an end. On March 2015 Newsmax reported that “The White House on Wednesday suggested it could reverse its decades-old policy of using its veto in the United Nations Security Council to protect Israel. It could refuse to veto resolutions related to the Palestinians or introduce a measure of its own, The Wall Street Journal reported. The U.S. could also lend its support to a two-state solution based on Israel’s 1967 borders, a senior White House official told The New York Times.”
Obama is in a rush to pass a UNSC resolution imposing a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank before his time in office ends. He knows that the next administration will not be willing to concede this to the Palestinians without taking into consideration Israel’s security needs.
Obama has to pass this UNSC urgently before his term comes to an end to tie the future US President’s hands. Future administrations will have no choice but to obey to Obama’s UNSC resolution.
To justify the UNSC resolution, Obama needs to create a sense of urgency. Abbas is escalating the violence through stabbing attacks to create the sense of urgency that Obama needs. Abbas wants to provoke an Israeli reaction which Obama can use as an excuse to justify the anti-Israel UNSC resolution.
The Palestinian Media Watch translated an interview by one of Hamas founders Mahmoud al-Zahar to the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam in which he said “transfer what it has [in Gaza] or just a small part of it to the West Bank, we would be able to settle the battle of the final promise [to destroy Israel] with a speed that no one can imagine…[Some] have said Hamas wants to create an Islamic emirate in Gaza. We won’t do that, but we will build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine…”
Those who advocate for a solution in the UNSC cannot ignore that what happened in Gaza can also happen in the West Bank. After Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas took power and started missile attack against Israel. If a Palestinian State is created in the West Bank Hamas will attack Israel with missiles from the West Bank as it does from Gaza.
John Kerry is dishonest in not acknowledging that after Gaza the situation has changed and imposing a solution in the UNSC will make the situation much worse, it will make life in Israel impossible and lead to war. Only a person that does not care for the safety of Israel’s citizens would advocate for this. For Kerry it doesn’t matter this UNSC resolution will make the conflict worse and lead to war, he wants to impose it at all costs.
Abbas admitted that he rejected Olmert’s peace offer in 2008 (and continues to reject the two state solution now) yet Obama and Kerry falsely blame Israeli settlement expansion for the collapse in peace negotiations and the increase in Palestinian violence.
Only the US Congress can prevent Obama and Kerry from imposing an anti-Israel UNSC resolution that will threaten Israel’s existence. There are 57 Muslim States (see members of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation) but only one Jewish State smaller than New Jersey. This UNSC resolution will lead to the destruction of the only small Jewish State.
The Congress can prevent this UNSC resolution by refuting Obama and Kerry’s false claims that Israel is to blame for the collapse of negotiations and issuing a statement condemning Abbas for rejecting Olmert’s peace-offer in 2008.
Ezequiel Doiny is a writer residing in New Jersey. His work has been published in Gatestone Institute, the Jewish Press and Arutz 7