Barriers to two-state peace/ Olmert’s Offer

Dec 18, 2009 | AIJAC staff

Update from AIJAC

December 18, 2009
Number 12/09 #05

This Update features some new pieces on the barriers on the Palestinian side which seem to be preventing the resumption of peace negotiations or achievement of a two-state peace deal after PA President Mahmoud Abbas placed some additional pre-conditions on resuming talks this week.  It also features some new revelations about the deal offered to the Palestinians by then-Israeli PM Ehud Olmert last year.

First up, Ari Shavit, veteran journalist and commentator for the left-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz, reviews the situation of both key Palestinian factions – Hamas and Fatah. He reports that even Hamas “moderates” are still very pointedly saying their goal is to liberate all of Palestine, despite claims that they have moderated their aims. Meanwhile, he points out that while PA President Abbas appears to hold out a possibility of peace, he has never even come close to making compromises necessary for peace. For Shavit’s arguments that both Hamas and Fatah are making it very difficult to “end the occupation” and suggesting some possible ways out of this trap, CLICK HERE. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post comments on the Fatah end of the equation, accusing Abbas of effectively sabotaging hopes of a resolution with his latest preconditions. Meanwhile, Israeli columnist Evelyn Gordon says refusing to negotiate and demanding concessions to come back to the table is a tactic that has unfortunately worked for the Palestinians in the past.

Next up, veteran Palestinian-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh also blames Fatah as much as Hamas for making peace difficult, by radicalising the Palestinian people and refusing to prepare them for peace. He reports that Palestinians who work for NGOs promoting coexistence are afraid to admit this for fear of being ostracised or punished for the treason of promoting “normalisation” with Israelis. He illustrates the problem by outlining the fate of the Palestinian “Strings of Freedom” Youth Orchestra which was disbanded after performing for Israeli Holocaust survivors. For Abu Toameh’s  complete argument that this anti-normalisation is at least as much a problem for peace as the Palestinian refusal to negotiate, CLICK HERE. Expanding on Abu Toameh’s point are Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook of Palestinian Media Watch, who offer numerous examples where Palestinian media and officials have appeared to promote antisemitic hatred – the opposite of coexistence.

Finally, Haaretz has obtained alleged details of the map of a future Palestinian state that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Abbas last year. (Readers may recall that Olmert discussed some of the details of his offer with Greg Sheridan of the Australian late last month.) The map shows that Olmert wanted to annex 6.3% of the West Bank containing 75% of settlers, but was prepared to offer lands around the West Bank and Gaza equal to 5.8% of the West Bank – as well as a corridor linking Gaza and the West Bank – in return. For all the alleged details of what was to be kept and what was offered in return, CLICK HERE.

Readers may also be interested in:

Hamas still wants to liberate ‘all of Palestine’

By Ari Shavit

 Haaretz, 17/12/2009

The cat is out of the bag: Palestine, all of Palestine. Standing before 100,000 people in the center of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh this week declared the objective of the Hamas movement. The moderate prime minister of the moderate faction of the Palestinian religious movement publicly announced the peace solution for which his government is aiming.

The ultimate solution is not the total liberation of the Gaza Strip or a Palestinian state. It is the liberation of all of Palestine.  

Haniyeh did not say so outright, but his words are clear. Hamas is demanding Ramle and Lod, Haifa and Jaffa, Abu Kabir and Sheikh Munis. It is also demanding the land on which this article was written and the land on which this article was printed – the land on which the editorial offices of Haaretz are located and the land on which the Haaretz printing plant is located. The land, the entire land. Greater Palestine.

In recent years, quite a number of experts have promised us that Hamas does not really mean it. Hamas is only playing tough, but its intentions are lofty: cease-fire, Green Line, coexistence. Live and let live. But no message conveyed by any senior Hamas member to any diplomat behind closed doors is equal in status to the message conveyed by Haniyeh to the masses. What counts is only the direct and open statement made by the Palestinian leader to his people. Palestine, all of Palestine. Every piece of Israeli land on which any Israeli citizen lives. His home, your home, our home. The land beneath our feet.

Ostensibly, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is an alternative to Hamas. Two days ago Abbas told Haaretz correspondent Avi Issacharoff that an agreement could be reached within six months. There’s one small problem: Similar things were said to us when the Beilin-Abbas agreement was formulated in 1995. Similar things were said to us on the eve of Camp David 2000. Similar things were promised us when the Geneva Initiative was signed in 2003. Similar things were promised us when Israel went to Annapolis in 2007.

But every time an Israeli leader took another significant step toward Abbas, Abbas became evasive. To this day Abbas has not responded positively to the offer of 100 percent made to him by former prime minister Ehud Olmert 15 months ago.

We can understand why Abbas is suspicious of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. But it’s impossible to understand why Abbas has once again evaded Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin, or why the Palestinian “peace leader” has never signed a draft peace deal or offered a peace compromise.

Minister Benny Begin says the reason is that, in its own way, Fatah is also a Greater Palestine movement. Others say the reason is that since Abbas is a refugee from Safed, he will never give up the right of return. Some argue that Abbas wants to but cannot, and others believe he can but doesn’t want to.

Whatever the case, Mahmoud Abbas seems to be presenting a mirage of peace. He has been talking about two states for the past 21 years, without being willing to pay the price the Palestinians must pay in order to implement the two-state solution.

The truth is harsh. The occupation is destroying Israel. It is undermining Israel’s ethical, democratic and diplomatic foundations. But both Hamas and Fatah are making it very difficult to end the occupation. With Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip, arming itself to the teeth and enjoying the support of about one-third of the Palestinians, it has the right to veto any diplomatic progress. With Fatah unwilling to recognize the Jewish nation-state and objecting to a demilitarized Palestinian state, there is no chance for a peace treaty.

Haniyeh and Abbas are pushing Israel into a trap, each in his own way. Only naifs believe that additional negotiations over a final-status agreement will extricate Israel from the trap. But the alternative to a final-status agreement is not a continuation of the status quo. The alternative is an Israeli initiative. MK Shaul Mofaz’s plan is one possibility; a second disengagement is another.

Whatever the case, Israel must deal with the existential threat of the occupation on its own. Time is running out, and the writing is on the wall. “Palestine,” the wall is blaring, “all of Palestine.”


Wanted: Palestinian “Peace Now” Movement

by Khaled Abu Toameh

Hudson Institute, December 8, 2009 8:00 AM

Many Palestinians who work with international or Israeli organizations whose job is to promote peace and coexistence in the Middle East are often afraid or reluctant to discuss the nature of their work, even though it is much more important to teach Palestinian children about coexistence, peace and normalization with Israel than to pressure Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table.

In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, any talk about these is still associated with treason and defeatism. The Palestinian leadership’s actions and words have sent the following message to its constituents: Any person who thinks about normalization or coexistence with the Jewish state will be severely punished.

By cracking down on the Palestinians who are working for normalization and coexistence with Israel, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have prevented the emergence of a real peace camp among Palestinians. Has anyone ever heard of an authentic and serious “Palestinian Peace Now” movement in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip?

Where are all the American, European and local non-governmental organizations that are supposed to use US and EU taxpayers’ money to promote peace, moderation and coexistence?

When the Strings of Freedom Orchestra returned home to the refugee camp of Jenin in the northern West Bank, the musical director, Wafa Yunis, was fired and her studio apartment in the camp was sealed. The Palestinian Authority, whose leaders have been talking to Israel for more than fifteen years, accused Yunis of “exploiting the children for the purpose of normalizing ties with Israel.”

While Israel has seen the creation of scores of organizations that work toward achieving peace with the country’s Arab neighbors over the past thirty years, it is still taboo in the Palestinian Authority-controlled territories to talk about normalization and coexistence between Palestinians and Jews.

A Palestinian woman from Ramallah who works for an EU-funded group that tries to promote peaceful coexistence between the two communities says she has received many warnings from Palestinians that she must quit or face retaliation. Her crime, she has been told, is that she and her group are seeking normalization with Israel.

This woman is not alone. A Palestinian man from Jerusalem who was hired by another group to recruit Palestinian children for a joint Arab-Israeli trip to the US says he has received death threats from Palestinian Authority officials. In the end, he says, he was forced to give up the task out of fear for his life.

Such threats by the Palestinian Authority should not come as a surprise given its leaders’ record in this regard. Earlier this year, Palestinian officials disbanded a Palestinian children’s orchestra for performing at the Holocaust Survivors Center near Tel Aviv.

And there is another message, one related to the Holocaust: By punishing the children and their musical director for performing in front of Holocaust survivors, the Palestinian Authority is denying Palestinians any opportunity to learn about that issue.

In this regard, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is not much different than the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, which has announced fierce opposition to including the Holocaust in the local school curriculum.

Over the past two decades, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have radicalized Palestinians to a point where it has even become to risky to send children to perform at the Holocaust Survivals Center or to bring Palestinian and Israeli women to joint conferences in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Such joint conferences and seminars sometimes do take place, but only in European capitals and resorts or in North America.

Although nearly two decades have passed since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO, there is almost no mention of a real grassroots peace camp in Ramallah or Gaza City.

Those who are passionate about the Israeli-Arab conflict and would like to see an end to the violence and hatred should start searching for ways to encourage the emergence of a serious peace camp in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – one whose leaders and members would be able to stand up to both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.


Haaretz exclusive: Olmert’s plan for peace with the Palestinians

By Aluf Benn

Haaretz, 17/12/2009

Former prime minister Ehud Olmert proposed giving the Palestinians land from communities bordering the Gaza Strip and from the Judean Desert nature reserve in exchange for settlement blocs in the West Bank.

According to the map proposed by Olmert, which is being made public here for the first time, the future border between Israel and the Gaza Strip would be adjacent to kibbutzim and moshavim such as Be’eri, Kissufim and Nir Oz, whose fields would be given to the Palestinians.     Advertisement

Olmert also proposed giving land to a future Palestinian state in the Beit She’an Valley near Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi; in the Judean Hills near Nataf and Mevo Betar; and in the area of Lachish and of the Yatir Forest. Together, the areas would have involved the transfer of 327 square kilometers of territory from within the Green Line.

Olmert presented his map to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in September of last year. Abbas did not respond, and negotiations ended. In an interview with Haaretz on Tuesday, Abbas said Olmert had presented several drafts of his map.

The version being disclosed Thursday in Haaretz is based on sources who received detailed information about Olmert’s proposals.

Olmert wanted to annex 6.3 percent of the West Bank to Israel, areas that are home to 75 percent of the Jewish population of the territories. His proposal would have also involved evacuation of dozens of settlements in the Jordan Valley, in the eastern Samarian hills and in the Hebron region. In return for the annexation to Israel of Ma’aleh Adumim, the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, Ariel, Beit Aryeh and settlements adjacent to Jerusalem, Olmert proposed the transfer of territory to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8 percent of the area of the West Bank as well as a safe-passage route from Hebron to the Gaza Strip via a highway that would remain part of the sovereign territory of Israel but where there would be no Israeli presence.

Olmert gave Col. (res.) Danny Tirza, who had been the primary official involved in planning the route of the security fence, the task of developing the map that would provide the permanent border between Israel and the Palestinian state. Olmert’s proposed annexation to Israel of settlement blocs corresponds in large part to the route of the security fence. In his proposal for a territory swap, Olmert rejected suggestions previously raised involving the transfer to the Palestinians of the eastern Lachish hills, deciding instead to establish communities there for evacuees from the Gaza Strip. He also showed a preference for giving the Palestinians agricultural land over the transfer of the Halutza sands near the Egyptian border.

The implementation of the Olmert plan would require the evacuation of tens of thousands of settlers and the removal of hallmarks of the West Bank settlement enterprise such as Ofra, Beit El, Elon Moreh and Kiryat Arba, as well as the Jewish community in Hebron itself.

Olmert reached a verbal understanding with the Bush administration to the effect that Israel would receive American financial aid to develop the Negev and Galilee to absorb some of those settlers evacuated from the West Bank. Other evacuees would have been resettled in new apartments to be built in the settlement blocs that Israel would annex.

Olmert’s office said in response to the disclosure of the plan: “On September 16, 2008, [Olmert] presented Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] a map that had been prepared based upon dozens of conversations that the two held in the course of the intensive negotiations after the Annapolis summit. The map that was presented was designed to solve the problem of the borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state. Giving Abu Mazen the map was conditioned upon signing a comprehensive and final agreement with the Palestinians so it would not be used as an ‘opening position’ in future negotiations the Palestinians sought to conduct. Ultimately, when Abu Mazen did not give his consent to a final and complete agreement, the map was not given to him.”

Olmert’s office also told Haaretz that “naturally for reasons of national responsibility, we cannot relate to the content of that map and the details of the proposal. At the same time, it should be stressed that in the details contained in your question, there are a not inconsiderable number of inaccuracies that are not consistent with the map that was ultimately presented.”

Olmert is currently suggesting that his map provide the basis for the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians. In his talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign statesmen, the former prime minister has said the international community must demand a formal response from Abbas to the Olmert proposal and proceed from there in the talks. Olmert has not presented the detailed map to Netanyahu.

Shaul Arieli of the Council for Peace and Security, which developed a map with a final border as part of the Geneva Initiative, said Israel’s capacity to swap territory with a future Palestinian state is more limited than what Olmert reportedly proposed.




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