Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Blow to the Chances for Peace

The Jerusalem Post, By Yossi Alpher
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem. Photo: AP
The Israeli-Palestinian final status negotiations launched by the Annapolis meeting of late 2007 never seemed to have a serious chance of success. The leaders on all sides - Israeli, Palestinian and American - were either too weak or too disinterested. Some supporters of the negotiations, which lasted throughout most of 2008, went so far as to argue that even hopeless talks were important as a means of underpinning the security and economic confidence-building measures being implemented simultaneously in the West Bank. And if the talks did somehow succeed, their outcome was in any case destined by Annapolis to become a "shelf agreement" that awaits completion of phase 1 of the road map and the restoration of PLO rule in the Gaza Strip.
Former prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently discussed with the American press (in interviews in The Washington Post on May 29 and Newsweek of June 13, respectively) the extent to which they actually reached agreement in their 2008 negotiations. The "product" they describe is roughly similar to the Clinton parameters of 2000, the Taba agreements of early 2001 and the unofficial Geneva Initiative of 2003. Bearing in mind the two leaders' apparent inability to even contemplate implementing an agreement, these appear to be the not-so-original details of yet another virtual exercise in peacemaking...
Olmert says he offered Abbas 93.5 percent to 93.7% of the West Bank, along with 5.8% in land swaps and a Gaza-West Bank safe passage corridor. Abbas recalls the offer as 97%. Both agree that Israel agreed to accept a small number of Palestinian refugees, with Olmert adding that he rejected the right of return and offered limited return to Israel as a "humanitarian gesture." Olmert also offered to, in effect, internationalize the Jerusalem Holy Basin...
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