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November 19, 2015

Palestinian Leader Admits He Rejected Statehood, Peace in 2008

Palestinian Authority (PA) President and Fatah movement head Mahmoud Abbas finally admitted in an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 on Nov. 17, 2015 that he had rejected an Israeli offer of Palestinian statehood and peace in 2008.

As the Times of Israel notes, the 2008 Israeli proposal had been previously reported but had not yet been acknowledged by Abbas (“Abbas admits he rejected 2008 peace offer from Olmert,” Nov. 19 2015).

The PA president admitted that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented him with a map that illustrated prospective borders of a future Palestinian state, with Israel giving up 93 percent of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and portions of eastern Jerusalem, in addition to all of the Gaza Strip. In the video-taped interview Abbas was asked by Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker about the Israeli proposal which included a swap for most of the nearly seven percent of the West Bank Israel planned to return.

“In the map that Olmert presented you,” Drucker asked, “Israel would annex 6.3 percent [of the West Bank] and compensate the Palestinians with 5.8 percent [taken from pre-1967 Israel]. What did you propose in return?”

Failing to answer the journalist’s question as to whether the PA made a counteroffer, Abbas stated that he rejected the Israeli offer “out of hand.” Perhaps Abbas did not answer directly because no evidence of his having made a counteroffer exists.

The 2008 Israeli proposal also included an offer of free passage between the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas, a U.S.-listed terror group, and the West Bank without any security checks. In the event that Fatah retook the Gaza Strip from Hamas, the offer would have recognized all of the Strip as belonging to the PA as well. In addition, the offer would have included Israel relinquishing control of Jerusalem’s Old City.

In the interview, Drucker again pressed Abbas on why he rejected a proposal for a Palestinian state. Abbas seemingly implied that it was due to Olmert only showing him the map reflecting possible borders for a state, but not letting him keep it.

However, as Olmert details, Abbas was offered to keep the map provided that he affixed his initials to it. According to former U.S. deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, who participated in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations during the time in question, Olmert likely did not want to give Abbas a copy of a map that wasn’t agreed upon—fearing the Palestinian side would use it to extract further concessions, without agreeing to Israeli demands to recognize the Jewish state and desist from supporting terrorist attacks against it (Elliott Abrams, Tested by Zion, Cambridge University Press, 2013).

The day after meeting with Olmert, Abbas called off talks, saying that he had to attend a meeting in Jordan. Subsequently, he never responded to Israel’s offer. In a Nov. 28, 2009 interview with The Australian, Olmert noted that Abbas “promised to return with his advisers the next day,” and after going to Jordan said, “let’s make it next week.” But “I never saw him [Abbas] again.”

As CAMERA has noted, Olmert later wrote an Op-Ed in The Washington Post where he said, “I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them” (“When Peace Almost Broke Out: A Washington Post Mirage,” Aug. 9, 2013).

This was not the first instance in which Palestinian leaders rejected an offer for statehood and peace with Israel while failing to make a counteroffer. Other relatively recent examples include an U.S. and Israeli offers in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposed framework to restart negotiations in 2014.

The Channel 10 interview (in Hebrew) can be found here.


Posted by SD at November 19, 2015 02:22 PM

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