Olmert denies claim PA responded to peace plan with maps

Erekat disputes narrative that PA walked away from 2008 offer; Ex-PM’s aide: The Palestinians never came back to us.

Ehud Olmert speech 311 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir)
Ehud Olmert speech 311
(photo credit: Yossi Zamir)
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat has challenged the widely held narrative that the Palestinians failed to respond to then prime minister Ehud Olmert’s diplomatic offer in 2008 and walked away from negotiations without presenting a counter offer.
Erekat told The Jerusalem Post this week that the Palestinian Authority presented Olmert with maps of its own delineating its vision of the borders of a future state.
Erekat’s claim was quickly disputed by sources close to Olmert, who said that although Palestinian ideas were incorporated into the maps that Olmert brought to the table at their last meeting on September 16, 2008, the Palestinians never presented a map of their own.
Olmert offered the Palestinians some 94 percent of the West Bank, with a land swap for the remainder; the division of Jerusalem, with the Holy Basin administered by a consortium of Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans; and Israel’s willingness to re-settle some 20,000 Palestinian refugees.
Erekat, in what is believed to be the first time a senior Palestinian official said the PA presented maps of its own during the negotiations, told the Post there was a serious exchange between Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
“We’re not denying that,” Erekat said. “Olmert made an offer on Jerusalem and other issues. But I wish to remind Olmert that President Abbas reciprocated and presented his own plan and map for a solution.”
According to Erekat, Olmert, “apparently for internal reasons, could not do anything. Yes, there was an offer from Olmert and we don’t deny it. Olmert must be reminded that President Abbas countered the offer and presented maps of his own regarding a solution.”
In May 2009, The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl wrote that Abbas, in an interview, acknowledged that Olmert had shown him a map, but complained that the prime minister did not let him take it with him. Diehl wrote nothing about a Palestinian map and stated flatly that Abbas turned down Olmert’s offer. He quoted Abbas as saying “The gaps were wide.”
The final meeting between Abbas and Olmert was held a day before the Kadima primary in which Tzipi Livni was elected head of the party.
Olmert formally resigned, but stayed on as prime minister while Livni tried – and failed – to form a new government, and early elections were held in February 2009.
One source close to Olmert said that “certainly in the 35 meetings between Abbas and Olmert there were suggestions from Abbas, and our proposal at the end was based on all the discussion between the two.”
He said this proposal dealt with all the core issues and included a detailed map of a future Palestinian state.
The source said Olmert presented his map at the last meeting, and the Palestinians were supposed to come back with their comments in a few days. They never did, he said.
Three months later the IDF began its Operation Cast Lead offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
“I don’t know of any similar map, or another map that the Palestinians presented,” the source said. He added that while there was agreement that land annexed by Israel beyond the Green Line would be swapped with the Palestinians for land inside the pre-1967 lines, there was disagreement on the amount of land involved.
For instance, while Olmert wanted Israel to annex 6.3% of the West Bank, home to about 75% of the Jews in the territories, and transfer to the Palestinians territory equivalent to 5.8% of the West Bank, along with a safe passage from Hebron to the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians wanted to see a smaller amount of territory annexed.