Abbas told Trump to base peace talks on 2008 Olmert maps – report
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Abbas told Trump to base peace talks on 2008 Olmert maps – report

At White House meet, PA president said to have shown Trump maps and documents from former PM's proposed deal, including territorial swaps

US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office of the White House on May 3, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly showed US President Donald Trump maps drawn up as part of a former Israeli prime minister’s 2008 peace proposal, which Abbas chose not to accept at the time, during his visit to the White House last week.

Abbas told Trump that his negotiations with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, which fell apart without an agreement, should form the basis of any future peace talks, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Tuesday.

A Palestinian spokesperson told Haaretz that Abbas showed Trump documents and maps with the details of the 2008 Olmert proposal.

“At that time they discussed territorial swaps of 1.9 percent whereas Olmert suggested 6.3%. That was the end of the negotiations because Olmert left the political arena,” the spokesman said. “We told President Trump and his team that the gaps [between the Palestinians and Israelis] were not so wide and that [those documents and maps] would be a good starting point for negotiations about borders — the critical issue with implications for all the core issues of a future agreement.”

Then-prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem, November 2008. (photo credit: Moshe Milner GPO/Flash90)
Then-prime minister Ehud Olmert (right) and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem, November 2008. (Moshe Milner GPO/Flash90)

The PA leader ultimately balked at Olmert’s 2008 offer, and later cited the then-prime minister’s legal troubles at the time as his primary reason. Olmert had announced that he planned to resign in order to fight corruption allegations, and Abbas doubted the Israeli had the political clout to see the deal through. Olmert is currently serving a 26-month jail sentence on various corruption charges.

Abbas also said Olmert’s offer to accept a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees into Israel did not resolve the issue.

The Times of Israel asked Abbas’s foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath on Monday whether Abbas had shown the maps to Trump, but the veteran negotiator said he couldn’t confirm that detail.

Shaath, however, said the so-called final status issues raised since the Oslo peace process in the 1990s will be a part of the negotiations, including Jerusalem, borders, refugees and settlements.

A sketch of the land for peace offer made by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. The map was hand-drawn by Abbas. (photo credit: Walla News)
A sketch of the land for peace offer made by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. The map was hand-drawn by Abbas. (photo credit: Walla News)

Abbas told Israel’s Channel 10 in 2015 that he supported the idea of territorial swaps, but that Olmert pressed him into agreeing to the plan without allowing him to study the proposed map.

“He showed me a map. He didn’t give me a map,” Abbas said. “He told me, ‘This is the map’ and took it away. I respected his point of view, but how can I sign on something that I didn’t receive?”

Olmert said in 2015 that in 2008 he had offered a near-total withdrawal from the West Bank — proposing that Israel retain 6.3% of the territory in order to keep control of major Jewish settlements. He said he offered to compensate the Palestinians with Israeli land equivalent to 5.8% of the West Bank, along with a link to the Gaza Strip — another territory meant to be part of Palestine.

He also said he offered to withdraw from Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and place the Old City — home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites — under international control. He described the offer to give up Israeli control of the Old City as the hardest day of his life.

Olmert confirmed that he pressed Abbas to initial the offer that day.

After last week’s summit between Trump and Abbas, Likud Minister Ze’ev Elkin said that although it was likely peace talks would resume, it was unlikely a deal would be reached soon. Elkin noted Abbas’s intransigence in 2009 and 2010, during which Israel, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, instituted a nine-month settlement freeze that the PA president had demanded. At that time talks also broke down with the Palestinians arguing that the construction halt was merely partial as it did not include a suspension on building in East Jerusalem.

The Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, was quick to reject any proposed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, stating that Abbas had no mandate.

“No one has authorized Mahmoud Abbas to represent the Palestinian people and no one is obligated to any position he’s issued,” Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri wrote on Twitter immediately after the White House meeting.

“We reject Abbas’s statement that all final status issues are solvable, because national rights belong to all Palestinians and no one person can relinquish them,” he added.

The Palestinians seek the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War, for an independent state. They say that Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, now home to about 600,000 Israelis, are threatening their hopes for independence by taking in lands where they hope to establish their state.

Netanyahu, who opposes a return to the 1967 lines, says all disputes must be settled through direct negotiations without any preconditions, and that any international pressure undermines the negotiating process.

Dov Lieber and Agencies contributed to this report.

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