Olmert's 2008 proposal on Palestinian refugees – to take a total of 5,000 over 5 years

Of course Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas could not have signed on to this stingy proposal when it was tabled by Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in their last meeting on 16 September 2008.

Not only is the number of Palestinian refugees that Israel would take back “inside the Green Line” less than Ehud Barak’s previous suggestion [to take back tens of thousands a year, as a “humanitarian gesture”] at Camp David talks in late July 2000, but this is also supposed to extinguish any further mention of the “Right of Return”. At the same Camp David discussions, the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said he wanted to solve the problem of some 450,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon first — an idea that the Israeli delegation, who had just completed their unilateral May 2000 withdrawal for almost all of the “security zone” they had created during their 25-year occupation of South Lebanon, did not dismiss out of hand.

It is true that the Barak team said that most of the Palestinian refugees who would want to return would have to do so to the future Palestinian state. [Then, there was some suggestion that Israel would want to have a say in who and how many returned, even to the Palestinian territory = West Bank or Gaza…]

In any case, here is the relaxed way Olmert himself recently described it to Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff in a recent interview which was reported yesterday, here:

“I agreed to absorb into Israel up to 5,000 Palestinian refugees over five years. Why 5,000? It may sound kind of strange, but during the talks between Rice and Abu Mazen he said that he needed the settlement of tens of thousands of refugees inside Israel, and that Ehud Barak had been ready to take in 100,000. She told him that he could get the same number of people as could fit inside the Mukataa at any given moment. We estimated that number to be about 5,000. So that’s how I came up with the number. I’m telling you, if Abu Mazen had been ready to sign on an agreement that would require our absorbing 10,000-15,000 over five years, I would have agreed. It was after all about the number of African illegals who were sneaking across the border every year back then. But all of it, of course, on condition that they would sign an agreement for an ‘end of conflict and end of demands,’ so there would no longer be a ‘right of return.’”

Olmert added that “he explained to Abbas during their talks that Israel could not agree to any solution to the refugee problem according to UN Resolution 194, which in his view had created the Palestinian’s ‘claim of return’ myth. ‘But I said to him, first we will set up a special fund for compensation to the refugees, second, we will accept the road map, which includes in it the Arab peace initiative which also refers to resolution 194 with respect to a solution for the refugee problem. That way you too can claim that Israel accepted the basis of the Arab peace initiative including Resolution 194’.”

And, what did Mahmoud Abbas say?

From Olmert’s account, as reported by Issacharoff, you could get the impression Abbas was only prepared to engage immediately on the Land Swaps proposal… and even on that he hesitated [and cancelled the follow-up meeting of map expert’s scheduled for the next day].

Continue reading Olmert's 2008 proposal on Palestinian refugees – to take a total of 5,000 over 5 years

Can Mahmoud Abbas negotiate on equal basis with less fluent English?

The language in which Israelis and Palestinians negotiate is: English. The original language of documents signed during the Oslo process is: English.

This brings up a delicate but extremely important point: Can Mahmoud Abbas negotiate on an equal basis with less fluent English than the Israeli Prime Minister?

Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff touched on the point in his report today, published here, of his interview with Israeli former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who presented a map and detailed negotiating points to Abbas in their last meeting on 16 September 2008.

The question is worth exploring.  Issacharoff reported that the first meeting between Olmert and Abbas on 23 December 2006 “launched a model for talks between the two leaders: every so often, usually every two week, the two would meet and after some opening remarks and some food, they would go off to the side and speak one-on-one about the issues regarding final status”.

Was Abbas able to navigate the subtleties?  Did his imperfect control of the English language have anything to do with his reported lack of response?  The last discussion between Olmert and Abbas was inconclusive — yet Abbas wants any new talks to start from that point.

Mahmoud Abbas has said many times that he wants direct negotiations to resume where they left off on that day.

Israel’s current Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu does not agree. He explains this by saying he wants negotiations without preconditions. But, Netanyahu does not agree with the major concessions that Olmert offered Abbas in September 2008 — (1) that the hugely important mosque esplanade in the Old City of East Jerusalem would be under no country’s sovereignty, and would instead be administered by a five-nation group of countries; and (2) that Israel was prepared to make significant Land Swaps with Palestinians, including giving up the Jordan Valley that Netanyahu seems determined to retain on a long-term basis as an essential security assurance. [Netanyahu is also determined to obtain Palestinian recognition of Israel as “a Jewish State” or “the state of the Jewish people”, which is a point that was also raised by Olmert at the start of the Annapolis process of negotiations in November 2007.]

The substantive part of the negotiations began, apparently, four months earlier — in May 2008.

Olmert told Issacharoff that Condoleeza Rice “was concerned about the differences in our English – since mine was much more fluent then Abu Mazen’s…”

It’s interesting that Rice was so concerned. The disparity in power between the two parties — one of whom is occupied by the other — and who have engaged in direct negotiations over the self-determination of one of them, could be considered an argument that might invalidate the legality of any agreement reached. And the imbalance in negotiating conditions is exacerbated by an imbalance in linguistic capability.

By Olmert’s account [reported today by Issacharoff], he said that even before the Annapolis process — in fact, on 23 December 2006 — Abbas asked for Israel to free 500-600 prisoners. “I said, ‘Why don’t you ask for more?’…”

In this 23 December 2006 meeting at Olmert’s house, Abbas “asked for the taxes owed the PA – 50 million [shekels]”… And Olmert said he told Abbas: “not a chance…you will get 100 million, it’s Palestinian money. The days when you have to ask for what is rightfully yours are over…”

But, when Condoleeza Rice gave Abbas Olmert’s proposal “that he appoint a representative on whom he relied completely who would formulate the peace agreement. I had already turned to someone like that; someone with international standing. But Abbas said he preferred that the talks be carried out directly with him. She was concerned about the differences in our English – since mine was much more fluent then Abu Mazen’s – but I promised her that I wouldn’t take advantage of it, and she believed me”

But, by Olmert’s account, he actually had to coach Mahmoud Abbas: “When we talked about the subject of borders, Abbas reiterated that he wanted land swaps of 1.9% only, or the 1967 borders. I told him that the 1967 borders did not include a passage between Gaza and the West Bank, and if they want to make that connection and the necessary adjustments of the map, then it should be done in a smart way”…

According to Olmert, “The two men met 36 times, mostly in Jerusalem + once in Jericho”.

At the end of this series, it was Sa’eb Erekat who cancelled the post-map-presentation follow-up session scheduled for 17 September 2008, Olmert said, and their excuse was that they’d “forgotten that Abbas had to go to Amman”.

Olmert told Avi Issacharoff that he’s “still waiting” since September 2008 for a call from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, just as just as Yasser Abed Rabbo told Avi Issacharoff [for an article published in mid-May in the Times of Israel] that he’s been waiting for a call from Netanyahu since February 16 2011..

Our reports on Avi Issacharoff’s recent reports are on our sister blog, Palestine-Mandate, here: [Olmert-Abbas 2006-2008] here … and [Yasser Abed-Rabbo-Netanyahu 2011] here.

Netanyahu's "strategy" vs. Ehud Olmert's "2008 parameters"

It took the American administration several years to denounce the obvious stalling tactics of Israel’s then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir after the launch of the Madrid Peace Conference in October 1991.

By then, back-stage talks between Israeli and Palestinian “academics” and “individuals” over dinners in idyllic settings in northern Europe had reached the stage that the Oslo process was ready to go public, and the Declaration of Principles was signed on the White House lawn in a live event in September 1993.

Now, almost four years after the direct American supervision over direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations was launched at the Annapolis Conference, Palestinian negotiators have brought the file back to the UN, saying they want the international community to take a stand, and they want to exercise their right to ask for full UN membership.

As Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said to reporters on the flight to New York, “all hell has broken loose”.

A day before his big speech — which will be broadcast live on screens in centers of major West Bank cities, particularly Ramallah and Nablus — Abbas is reported in the New York Times [see our earlier post] to have said that he is not happy with either the Americans or the Arabs: “I am fed up with all these people + I don’t know what to do when I return back”.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu — who is on tape**,here, during a visit in 2001 to the large West Bank settlement of Ofra, between Ramallah and Nablus, as saying he deceived the U.S. and will destroy the Oslo Accords and prevent a solution — was for a while not even going to go to the UN, in order to deny credibility to the Palestinian “UN bid”. But, it assumed such proportions that he had to go.

Despite an offer, Netanyahu + Abbas have not met in New York. But, that is not a big deal.

For, Netanyahu has a strategy. He and his staff briefed Israeli journalists on it earlier this week. The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon reported it in the Jerusalem Post: “Netanyahu’s strategy is to explain. Explain, explain, explain. He is a man of words. He loves to read, and to speak – some less charitable would say he loves to lecture. And he believes in the power of words, of oratory, of rhetoric … [H]e is carrying a speech to explain to the world what he feels much of it fails to see: that the Middle East has changed; changed radically, and changed fundamentally. At Sunday’s cabinet meeting Netanyahu explained why he decided, after weeks of deliberation, to go to the UN himself and combat the Palestinian Authority’s statehood recognition move. ‘My UN trip will have a double goal’, he said. ‘The first goal is to ensure that this move to bypass negotiations does not succeed and is stopped in the Security Council’. The second goal, he said, is to present the truth about ‘our desire for peace’ and Israel’s historic rights to the country that go back ‘only 4,000 years’. And then he cut to the chase: ‘I will also speak about our intention to achieve peace with our neighbors while ensuring our security. If this was clear and necessary in the past, then today it is even more important. Especially now, when the Middle East is undergoing a great upheaval, from Tunisia to Yemen, from Libya to Egypt, Syria and throughout the region; when we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or how things will turn out’.” These remarks, which echo remarks made in recent months by a number of other Israeli military and security officials, are published in the JPost here.

Netanyahu said he was going to the UN in NY to speak the truth. Apparently, most of it has to deal with Israel’s security, and the requirement to maintain superiority and control to maintain Israel’s security.

Indications are, he will speak about the Jordan Valley.

When Israel began to build its Wall, almost a decade ago, it wanted to build it straight down the Jordan Valley. The U.S. Administration at that time [George W. Bush] quietly ruled that out.

Netanyahu wants to revisit the matter.

Toward the end of his article, the JPost’s Keinon wrote that “Last September, during those few days when Netanyahu and Abbas did speak for a few hours, the Prime Minister told Abbas that Israel would need a military presence along the Jordan River for a long period of time. When Abbas asked Netanyahu why, the prime minister replied that one never knows what could happen, and that a presence on the Jordan River – to protect against any untoward developments from the east – was a necessity. And that was before the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the chaos in Syria, the uncertainty in Jordan, and the rift with Turkey. How much truer is it now, he will argue, how much more caution is needed now, than in the past, because who really knows what will develop. If Fatah can lose control of Gaza to Hamas in a matter of weeks, if the Egyptians leadership can now talk about re-visiting and perhaps trashing a 30-year peace treaty, then previous assumptions and strategies and ways of doing business need to be re-thought”.

We posted earlier, on 11 August, on our sister blog www.palestine-mandate.com here about Mahmoud Abbas telling visiting American Congressmen that negotiations had been blocked by Netanyahu’s demand to keep IDF troops in the Jordan Valley: “Abbas told a group of visiting American Congressmen, including Steny Hoyer of Maryland [Democratic Party whip in the House of Representatives], that ‘there are no negotiations now because Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has placed pre-conditions’, specifically a demand that there be an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley. Abbas told the delegation that the discussions he has had with Netanyahu in the past ‘have led nowhere, because unless we agree to be occupied by IDF troops, he doesn’t want to talk about anything in the next step’. Abbas, according to Hoyer, said he met with Netanyahu last year, but that those talks ‘went nowhere because Netanyahu only wanted to talk about security, and that the implementing of that security was deployment of IDF troops in the Jordan Valley’.”

Netanyahu is due to speak about an hour after Abbas makes his address in the UNGA on Friday, around the middle of the day in New York, and evening here in Jerusalem.

**On the Jordan Valley, Netanyahu said in the 2001 home video, linked to above, that “His approach to White House demands to withdraw from Palestinian territory under the Oslo accords, he says, drew on his grandfather’s philosophy: ‘It would be better to give two per cent than to give 100 per cent’. He therefore signed the 1997 agreement to pull the Israeli army back from much of Hebron, the last Palestinian city under direct occupation, as a way to avoid conceding more territory.
‘The trick’, he says, ‘is not to be there [in the occupied territories] and be broken; the trick is to be there and pay a minimal price’. The ‘trick’ that stopped further withdrawals, Mr Netanyahu adds, was to redefine what parts of the occupied territories counted as a ‘specified military site’ under the Oslo accords. He wanted the White House to approve in writing the classification of the Jordan Valley, a large area of the West Bank, as such a military site. ‘Now, they did not want to give me that letter, so I did not give [them] the Hebron Agreement. I stopped the government meeting, I said: ‘I’m not signing.’ Only when the letter came, did I sign the Hebron Agreement. Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo accord’.” This is recounted by Jonathan Cook in a 2010 article published in The National, here.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s predecessor as Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert — forced to resign to defend himself against charges of corruption — wrote an Op-Ed published today in the New York Times saying that he feels uneasy at the current turn of events: “As tensions grow, I cannot but feel that we in the region are on the verge of missing an opportunity — one that we cannot afford to miss”.

Continue reading Netanyahu's "strategy" vs. Ehud Olmert's "2008 parameters"

Al-Jazeera's "Transparency": Palestinian negotiators hung out to dry

We reported on this blog what Sa’eb Erekat said last May in a speech to an audience of Israeli officials, ex-officials, and journalists at the security think-tank INSS in Tel Aviv. [I was later told that Erekat was very pleased and thought it had been a great success, but Israelis present said that Erekat did not understand how to talk to an Israeli audience…]   At this session in Tel Aviv in May, Erekat told the crowd, who were of course polite, “that the Palestinian side had presented two maps of their own — one offering a territorial swap of 1.9 percent –countering the Olmert proposal for a 6.5 percent swap (including 0.7 percent for a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza). The second map, Erekat said, showed the built-up areas of Israeli settlements that constitute some 1.2 percent of West Bank land.  Erekat added that the 46 square kilometers of “no-man’s land” should be split down the middle ‘according to the Peru-Ecuador formula’  for their border conflict”. Our earlier report is posted here.

We reported also earlier, in March, here, that a Palestinian official in Ramallah said: “maps were ‘shown’ during the Annapolis process of negotiations in 2008. But, he said, the Israeli interlocutors ‘refused to hand over any maps or any papers’ … The Palestinians, he said, ‘gave an offer to exchange [or swap] 1.9 percent of the West Bank. We also showed this to the Americans and gave them [the Americans] a map’. The Israelis, he said, indicated they ‘had an idea of swapping 6.5 percent of the land”…

Here’s what Haaretz reported he’s been saying:
“According to Al-Jazeera, Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to concede almost all of East Jerusalem to Israel.
The Palestinian Authority reportedly offered in 2008 that Israel take control of all neighborhoods in Jerusalem except Har Homa, the first time in history the Palestinians made such a proposal, one that they refused to during the Camp David summit.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, also proposed in an October 2009 meeting that Jerusalem’s Old City be divided, giving Israel control over the Jewish Quarter, part of the Armenian Quarter, and part of the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Further details reveal that the Palestinian agreed that solely10,000 Palestinian refugees return to Israel as part of the Palestinian right of return, and that Erekat agreed to the Israeli demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
Among other documents due to be released is an Israeli offer to transfer Israeli Arabs citizens to the territory of a future Palestinian state.
Moreover, Al-Jazeera revealed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was personally notified by a senior Israeli official that Israel was planning an attack on the Gaza Strip, the night before Operation Cast Lead. Israeli and Palestinian officials reportedly discussed targeted assassinations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza”.
This is posted here.

The Jerusalem Post later reported that Erekat “denied that the PA had agreed to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He said that when he was asked by Israel to accept this demand, he replied that it was tantamount to asking a Palestinian to join the Zionist movement”. Indeed, that is indeed what I heard him say, several times… This JPost report is posted here.

Al-Jazeera has been working on this for several months. A team of producers and reporters and correspondents has been in the Jerusalem-Ramallah area for the past couple of days. They thought, correctly, that this was going to be big, big, big — and the satellite channel gave the resources to support it. They also were — and are — prepared for other documents (from the Israelis?) to be revealed live, on air, as the program continues for several days this week

Many people had advance copies of some of this material.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he didn’t know where the documents had come from, but said that all information about the negotiations had been shared with his Arab brothers. Others said that the source came from within the PLO’s Negotiations Affairs Department itself (run by Erekat) — or perhaps some of its discontents.

It mighty be too much of a compliment to suggest that the suspended Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Dahlan and some of his group of supporters may have played a role… though this may in fact be the case.

In any case, it is worth reproducing a lot of Karma Nabulsi wrote almost immediately after the program in The Guardian’s Comment is Free Section here that: “It’s over. Given the shocking nature, extent and detail of these ghastly revelations from behind the closed doors of the Middle East peace process, the seemingly endless and ugly game is now, finally, over. Not one of the villains on the Palestinian side can survive it. With any luck the sheer horror of this account of how the US and Britain covertly facilitated and even implemented Israeli military expansion – while creating an oligarchy to manage it – might overcome the entrenched interests and venality that have kept the peace process going. A small group of men who have polluted the Palestinian public sphere with their private activities are now exposed. For us Palestinians, these detailed accounts of the secretly negotiated surrender of every one of our core rights under international law (of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, on annexing Arab Jerusalem, on settlements) are not a surprise. It is something that we all knew – in spite of official protests to the contrary – because we feel their destructive effects every day. The same is true of the outrageous role of the US and Britain in creating a security bantustan, and the ruin of our civic and political space. We already knew, because we feel its fatal effects … The release into the public domain of these documents is such a landmark because it destroys the final traces of credibility of the peace process. Everything to do with it relied upon a single axiom: that each new initiative or set of negotiations with the Israelis, every policy or programme (even the creation of undemocratic institutions under military occupation), could be presented as carried out in good faith under harsh conditions: necessary for peace, and in the service of our national cause. Officials from all sides played a double game vis-à-vis the Palestinians. It is now on record that they have betrayed, lied and cheated us of basic rights, while simultaneously claiming they deserved the trust of the Palestinian people”

She continued: “This claim of representative capacity – and worse, the assertion they were representing the interests of Palestinians in their struggle for freedom – had become increasingly thin over the last decade and a half. The claim they were acting in good faith is absolutely shattered by the publication of these documents today, and the information to be revealed over this coming week. Whatever one’s political leanings, no one, not the Americans, the British, the UN, and especially not these Palestinian officials, can claim that the whole racket is anything other than a brutal process of subjugating an entire people … The Palestinian leadership’s weak and incompetent posturing is the opposite of dignified and honourable national representation, and proves useless to boot. On the positive side, had such deals eventually come to light, Palestinians would have rejected them comprehensively. But the worst betrayal has been what this hypocrisy has bequeathed to the young generation of Palestinians. These officials have led a new generation to believe that participating in public governance is base and self-seeking, that joining any political party is the least useful method to advance principals and create change. Through their harmful example, they have alienated young Palestinians from their own history of resistance to colonial and military rule, so they now believe that tens of thousands of brilliant, imaginative and extraordinarily brave Palestinians never existed or, worse, fought and died for nothing” …

Yes, and now I mourn for those who died.

Haaretz publishes map of Olmert's offer to Abu Mazen

Here is the graphic of the map, as Haaretz reconstructed it, of the “unprecedented” offer made during direct contacts in 2008 between Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ):

Olmert peace plan presented to Abu Mazen as reconstructed by Haaretz - 17 Dec 09

The accompanying article, published in Haaretz today, was written by Aluf Benn, who reported that “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 Jewish 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. 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 … 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’.”   This article is posted on the Haaretz website here.

This is fascinating. The leaks are coming fast and furious. This is positioning, or pre-positioning, in advance of some bigger move.

Now, Haaretz, we would like to see a close-up map of the Olmert proposals concerning the Jerusalem area, please…

If this map is correct, Olmert was not proposing any swaps in the Jerusalem area — but sources, and other published reports, indicated that Olmert had put on the table something about Jerusalem areas with large Palestinian populations being turned over to the PA…

According to this map, the entire Greater Jerusalem Municipal area plus something around Dahiet al-Bariid (Jerusalem side) and Neve Yaakov, as well as the E-1 envelope and all of Maale Adumim — a huge amount of territory — would be “annexed to Israel”.

Also, the map does not show any Israeli ambitions in the Jordan valley, in the Israeli settlements around Jericho, or along a large part of the Dead Sea coastline, something that also seems to fly in the face of known facts [though the U.S. has apparently consistently opposed Israeli annexation — or anything like it — of the Jordan valley] …  As Ma’an News Agency reported on Friday evening, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told the Climate Conference in Copenhagen that ““Today, 9000 Israeli settlers living in the Jordan Valley consume approximately one quarter of the total amount of water made available to all 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.”   There are now more Israeli settlers living in the Jordan Valley than were living in Gaza at the time of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral “Disengagement” of Israeli settlers and the soldiers protecting them in 2005.

One of the many comments posted on this article and map, on the Haaretz website (written by Johnboy in Sydney) notes the following:
…look at some of the other nonsense going on nearer the Green Line:
1) Qalqilyah is sandwiched between Tzofim and Alfei Menashe; Abbas would have no choice but to tell the Israelis that they can`t have both.
2) The twin roads leading back from Ariel through Elkana and Beit Aryeh entrap a triangle of Palestinian territory; Abbas can`t possibly accept that.
3) What on earth is that road heading south of Beit Aryeh doing/going?
4) The Latrun salient is all Israeli; is that counted in the “5%” that Israel is annexing from the Pals, or is it excluded from the calculations?
5) There is a little cut-off triangle of land betweem Givat Ze`ev and Nataf; were we supposed to miss that fact?”

So many white volvos – new Netanyahu government officially takes over

This is a pool report for members of the Foreign Press Association prepared by the New York Times:

“At around 9.15 Wednesday morning Israeli ministers (incoming and outgoing) and top officials began arriving in a line of white Volvos and gathered at the breakfast buffet at the President’s House, where they mingled for a while before the official handover of powers.

“This was the first time the handover took place at the President’s House – in previous years it took place in a small room at the PM’s office with PM’s staff only. It was announced that this would be the start of a new custom – from now on, it will take place at the President’s House.,,
Continue reading So many white volvos – new Netanyahu government officially takes over

Another set of "generous proposals" — another set-up?

Another Prime Minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, is saying that Palestinians have inexplicably hardened their stances and rejected another set of “generous proposals”.

Ehud Olmert and company did that after the failed Camp David negotiations in late July 2000. Years later, and the verdict is still not in.

Olmert sent out the same message last night, and is now going to convene the Israeli Cabinet at 2 pm today to offically throw the gauntlet down, yet again.

Egyptian officials have a few more frantic hours to try to work on all parties.
Continue reading Another set of "generous proposals" — another set-up?

Olmert's office says Hamas has hardened its position in recent days

The office of Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has released an update this evening, suggesting that there has been no progress in talks in Egypt with Hamas on his last-minute push to get IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit released. A Cabinet meeting scheduled for today was earlier postponed until tomorrow.

Much press speculation in Israel was that a favorable deal was imminent.

But — perhaps in an effort to put last-minute pressure on Hamas — the Prime Minister’s office’s statement said, discouragingly, that “it became clear during the discussions that Hamas had hardened its position, reneged on understandings that had been formulated over the past year and raised extreme demands despite the generous proposals that had been raised in this round in order to advance and exhaust the negotiations and bring about the soldier’s release”.
Continue reading Olmert's office says Hamas has hardened its position in recent days