Dr. Emmanuel Navon, INN
The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a leading Israeli think tank, recently hosted its annual conference. This year, the conference’s main agenda was to promote the idea of unilateral disengagement from Judea and Samaria. INSS’s suggestions were summarized in a paper authored by Gilead Sher and his team: “The Palestinian Issue: Toward a Reality of Two States.”
Unilateralism is not the authors’ favorite option: such a strategy, they claim, should only be implemented if and when the Palestinian Authority rejects another Israeli peace offer —an offer that should be based on Olmert’s proposal to Mahmud Abbas in 2008.
None of the new government’s coalition partners are ready to endorse the Olmert proposal. Even Tzipi Livni (a minority partner in the current government) criticized Olmert’s proposal while she was serving as his Foreign Minister, because she disagreed with Olmert on the refugee issue. Yair Lapid has said that Olmert went too far with his proposal to Abbas.
For Likud, Israel Beyteinu and the Jewish Home, the Olmert proposal is a non-starter. So expecting the newly elected Israeli government to resubmit the Olmert proposal to Abbas is not only unrealistic but also strange: why should the government implement a policy for which it was not elected and which was rejected at the polls?
For the record, the Olmert proposal consisted of an Israeli withdrawal from 94% of Judea and Samaria (with minor land swaps); of a safe passage route from Hevron to the Gaza Strip; of the forced evacuation of tens of thousands of Israelis (including from Hevron, Ofra, and Beit-El); of the transfer of sovereignty over Jerusalem’s “holy basin” (including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall) from Israel to an international custodial regime composed of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian State; and of the acceptation by Israel of the return of 5,000 Palestinian refugees to Israel proper, with financial compensation for the rest.
But suppose, for the sake of the argument, that Olmert was Prime Minister again and that his coalition was backing him on the 2008 proposal. Would Abbas, this time, accept it?
One theory (promoted among others by Israeli journalist Raviv Drucker) claims that Abbas rejected Olmert’s 2008 proposal because Olmert was already a lame duck at the time. This theory flies in the face of historical evidence. Condoleezza Rice writes in her memoirs No Higher Honor that Olmert submitted his proposal in May 2008, and that Abbas told her that he couldn’t tell four million refugees that only five thousand would return home.
In May 2008, Olmert was no lame duck: only on 30 July 2008 did he announce that he would not run for his party’s leadership. Abbas mentioned to Rice the so-called “right of return,” not Olmert’s legal troubles, to justify his rejection of the proposal.
Al-Jazeera’s “Palestine Papers” revealed that in September 2008, the Palestinian leadership decided not to react officially to the Olmert proposal so as not to be blamed for its failure. No mention was made of Olmert …read more