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A tale of two peace offers

by heathlander Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 06:37:03 AM EST

In 2008, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the Palestinians an offer so reasonable and enlightened it made Ehud Barak's "generous offer" at Camp David look like the Treaty of Versailles. Bending over backwards to reach a peace settlement, Olmert offered the Palestinians a state on virtually all of the occupied territories. Alas, stubborn as always, Palestinian negotiators turned him down.


Much like Barak's mythical "generous offer", this account of Olmert's proposal has been widely repeated, conforming as it does to convenient narratives that place the burden for the continuing conflict on the Palestinians, and demonstrating for all to see that, as Abba Eban famously put it, when it comes to peace, the Arabs "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity".

What did Olmert really offer? Thanks to the Palestine Papers - leaked internal Palestinian documents related to the 'peace process' - we don't need to speculate. Palestinian officials kept detailed minutes of meetings with Israeli and American officials to serve as an internal record of where negotiations had got to. In 2008 Olmert made two offers to the Palestinians. In April he proposed that Israel annex 9.2% of the West Bank in exchange for Israeli territory equivalent of 5% of the West Bank. Then on 31 August he offered the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas a landswap in which Israel would annex 8.7% of the West Bank in exchange for Israeli territory equivalent of 5.5%. This second 'offer' was not a formal one: Olmert would not allow it to be presented to the broader negotiation teams. The maps he presented were reportedly "similar to the Wall".

Already it is difficult to see what the fuss is about. Annexing nearly ten percent of the West Bank along roughly the route of the Wall violates basic Palestinian legal rights and renders a viable and contiguous Palestinian state impossible. But it's worse than the mere percentages suggest. The fundamental problem is that Olmert continued to insist on annexing "all the major [settlement] 'blocs'", keeping 90% of Israeli settlers in place. This is an important point to understand. The settlements themselves - the actual built-up areas - take up almost no space. The problem is that Israel wants to annex, not settlements, but settlement blocs: large chunks of Palestinian territory that link settlements to each other and to Israel proper, dissecting the West Bank into de facto non-contiguous cantons, appropriating key water and agricultural resources, and cutting Palestinians off from East Jerusalem in the process (without East Jerusalem, the West Bank's economic hub, there can be no Palestinian state). Note that this was still Israel's negotiating position in November 2008, after the "secret offer" made by Olmert and recently "revealed" by Condoleeza Rice (a mere two years after it appeared in Ha'aretz) to sell her memoirs.

If Olmert's deal was a non-starter, did the Palestinians offer an alternative? Yes. The Palestinians came up with an official offer that both upheld their legal rights and made reasonable compromises to accommodate Israeli interests. Here's what it looked like:

(Black areas to be annexed to Israel; orange areas to the future Palestinian state)

Note that under this proposal over 60% of Israeli settlers would remain in situ, on just 1.9% of Palestinian territory, which would be exchanged for land of equal size and value inside Israel. As the International Court of Justice unanimously determined, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza constitute occupied Palestinian territory, and all of Israel's settlements are illegal. And yet, this notwithstanding, Palestinian negotiators offered to allow over 60% of them to stay where they are. That's a breathtaking compromise, but one that nonetheless leaves a contiguous West Bank intact to serve as the basis for a viable Palestinian state.


Unlike Olmert's slight modification of Israel's standard rejectionist position, this Palestinian proposal received no media plaudits, and garnered no international praise. Indeed it hasn't even been reported. Also unlike Olmert's 'offer', it represents the basis for a genuine peace settlement. It embodies the overwhelming international political and legal consensus for resolving the conflict, making extraordinary compromises to accommodate Israel's interests while still providing for a contiguous, viable state on the whole of Palestinian territory.


What does a peaceful settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict look like? It looks like this Palestinian map. It remains for us pressure Israel, through our governments, to accept it.


     


Note: A big hat-tip to Norman Finkelstein for digging up the Palestinian offer and map discussed here, and elaborating its significance. See his forthcoming pamphlet on how to solve to Israel-Palestine conflict, co-written with Mouin Rabbani, for further discussion. See also my interview with him, just published on NLP.

Originally published at New Left Project

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What is the date on this map? Your article suggests it dates from 2008, but that doesn't seem to make sense - why would they give part of Gaza to Israel if the map was made after the Israeli "withdrawal"?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 06:45:05 AM EST
It was made on 4 May, 2008. The northern most strip of Gaza is currently no man's land, enforced by Israel, to protect its towns that are right along the border (e.g. Sderot). So I guess the offer is to let it keep that narrow strip in exchange for other bits of Israeli territory adjacent to Gaza.

The Heathlander
by heathlander on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 07:36:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess I missed that bit. Maybe I ignored it, regarding the argument of protecting Sderot to be nonsense, since it would be useless against missiles anyway. In any case, Israel seems to regard all non man's land as theirs by default (see the history of their border with Syria) so I doubt they would accept the Palestinian figures (on the unlikely assumption that they would accept the rest of it).
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 02:15:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Israel for sure doesn't accept the figures - it doesn't even accept that it is occupying the West Bank. But the International Court of Justice is more authoritative than Israel on the status of the West Bank (including 'No Man's Land), and it found, unanimously, that it constitutes occupied Palestinian territory.

The Heathlander
by heathlander on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 07:44:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It also doesn't accept the figures because it, alone in the world, treats East Jerusalem as Israeli territory.

In reporting about Olmert's offer you'll often see it stated that he proposed to annex 6.8% of the West Bank (except for Makovsky, who quotes a figure of 6.3%, which he just made up). Why 6.8% when the figure quoted in the documents (and in this post) is 8.7%? The 6.8% figure is the one used by Israel, achieved by ignoring East Jerusalem (on the basis that it Israeli territory). So all the journalists who repeated the 6.8% figure are effectively endorsing Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem, just because they can't be bothered to read the documents for themselves.

The Heathlander

by heathlander on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 07:51:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is the offer explained in detail, breaking the map down section-by-section.

The Heathlander
by heathlander on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 07:37:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I imagined all of the talk of the offer was deceitful, I had no idea how blatantly dishonest it was. thank you

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 09:43:37 AM EST
Do we have similar maps for the Israeli proposal? Compare-and-contrast tends to be a useful exercise in these cases.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 12:05:36 PM EST
I don't know how reliable this is, but you won't find anything else comparable...

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 12:34:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But that is considerably more than 10 %...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 01:16:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Haaretz:

Haaretz exclusive: Olmert's plan for peace with the Palestinians - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Click here to view the map detailing Olmert's peace plan

(pdf)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 03:12:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know enough of the local geography to say for sure, but it does strike me that the biggest bulk of land transfered to the Palestinians is "151 sq. km in Judean Desert".

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 03:16:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, Olmert didn't accept (in fact rejected) the principle of land-swaps of equal size and value.

The key point about the Olmert offer is that it retains the settlement blocs, which makes a Palestinian state nonviable. Olmert's offer is just a minor variation on Israel's standard rejectionist position: see the maps and explanation provided here.

The Heathlander

by heathlander on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 07:47:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good article, in particular when it comes to the consistency on the Israeli side, 1967 and onwards.

Found these parts enlightening:

Lawrence of Cyberia: Details Of The Olmert Peace Plan For The West Bank, Revealed Here And Nowhere Else On The Internet!

(As a quick aside here, I should mention that what Israel refers to as the "West Bank" in its final status offers, is not the West Bank as it is internationally understood.  When Barak, Sharon and Olmert talk about relinquishing x per cent of the "West Bank", they mean that part of the West Bank which is left when you have removed in advance from the equation Jerusalem in the West and the Jordan Valley in the East. Sharon and Olmert proceed from the assumption that those two areas will be annexed to Israel - Barak talks about the Jordan Valley remaining under long-term, "temporary" Israeli control, which amounts in practice to the same thing - and are not up for discussion. So when they talk about "giving" to the Palestinians 93 per cent of the West Bank, they really mean 93 per cent of that 80 - 85 per cent of the occupied West Bank that they are even willing to negotiate over).

Lawrence of Cyberia: Details Of The Olmert Peace Plan For The West Bank, Revealed Here And Nowhere Else On The Internet!

the percentages themselves are not significant. It's not so important that Israel wants to keep 6 - 8 per cent, what is significant is where that 6 - 8 per cent is, and what purpose does it serve Israel to hold on to it. Look back to what I wrote under point one of this post, about how the unchanging Israeli plan for the West Bank over the last 40 years is to control the West bank by cutting off the Palestinians from Jerusalem, from the outside world, from their arable and water resources, and from each other. That is where the significance of the last 6 - 8 per cent lies. 


Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Nov 15th, 2011 at 10:48:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Didn't this plan date from a point where Olmert was already a lame duck and was only concerned about his reputation in history?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 03:16:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No official maps, afaik, but here's one Ha'aretz put together on the basis of what it heard from "sources" about Olmert's offer: http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/images/iht_daily/D171209/olmertmap.pdf

The Heathlander
by heathlander on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 07:45:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks! (for the welcome.)

The Heathlander
by heathlander on Mon Nov 14th, 2011 at 07:48:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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