News / Middle East

Olmert's Peace Plan: Now or Never?

FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, Oct. 3, 2007.
FILE - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem, Oct. 3, 2007.
Cecily Hilleary
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Israel is more secure now than it has ever been and the time has come to make peace with the Palestinians. But Israelis and Palestinians are still far apart on what a peace accord would look like, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry may have a hard time getting peace talks started, much less much less reaching a successful conclusion.
 
Olmert was in Washington recently, promoting a peace plan he offered the Palestinians more than four years ago. At the time, Olmert’s plan was considered unprecedented, largely because it called for making Jerusalem the shared capital of two nations – Israel and a sovereign Palestine mainly occupying what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
 
Equally controversial, it called for international control over Jerusalem’s Old City, with its places holy to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And additionally, it would have allowed up to 5,000 Palestinians to return to their homeland in what is now Israel.
 
The plan did not gain a lot of momentum inside Israel, But Olmert told a Wilson Center audience  in Washington that it failed because Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas held back, thinking he could get an even better deal under President Barack Obama.
 
 Still Olmert thinks it’s time to put his 2008 proposals back on the table.

“Israel never safer…”

“Today, the traditional enemies of Israel are not potential players in any possible attack that could jeopardize Israel,” Olmert said.
 
Whether or not Bashar al-Assad stays in power in neighboring Damascus, Olmert says he believes that at least for the foreseeable future, Syria will not be able to pose any strategic challenge to Israel. He says Israel’s relationship with Egypt may be “in transition” since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Cairo, but that the two countries enjoy a formal peace agreement, and that the Morsi government has nothing to gain by tearing it up.
 
“The responsibility for feeding 80 million people every day is far more important than entering into adventures that might end up with a terrible disaster for your own people and your own country,” Olmert said. 

But while Olmert makes the case for an immediate resumption of peace talks, and as Secretary Kerry is undertaking his fifth visit to the Middle East, there is little indication that the parties themselves are anxious to begin negotiations any time soon.

Israel holding out

Gil HoffmanGil Hoffman
x
Gil Hoffman
Gil Hoffman
Gil Hoffman, chief political analyst for The Jerusalem Post, says it is doubtful that Israel is ready to re-offer anything like the Olmert plan.   

“I don’t think there’s an appetite among the people of Israel for it,” Hoffman said and he cited a recent Post public opinion poll to back his case.  “The numbers were two-thirds in favor of a two-state solution, but in dividing Jerusalem, they were against. 

“And Olmert was going to do more than divide Jerusalem,” he continued. “He was going to internationalize the old city.  He was going to do things that, chances are, 80-90 percent of Israelis would be against.”

“Olmert offered the plan on September 16, 2008, and there hasn’t been a peace process since that day – in part because of mistakes made in Washington, in part because of mistakes made in Ramallah, and in part because of assumptions about the administration in Jerusalem," Hoffman said. "And so now, Kerry is trying very hard, and [National Security Advisor] Susan Rice is a big believer in there being a peace process — as everyone else.  A lot depends on whether Abbas is going to come back to the table.”

Abbas says he is ready to return to negotiation as soon as possible to reach agreement with Israel “on the basis of a two-state solution on the 1967 borders” with Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

Hoffman disagrees with Olmert’s assessment that in postponing peacemaking, Israel risks having to deal with a tougher Palestinian leadership — possibly the Gaza-based Hamas movement.
 
“The popularity of Hamas is down to 18 percent in Gaza, according to a poll that was in the Economist not too long ago,” Hoffman said.

Palestinians holding out

Ori NirOri Nir
x
Ori Nir
Ori Nir
Ori Nir is a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now. And while he agrees that a hardline Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is unlikely to offer a plan as generous as Olmert’s, that could change in the future. 

“One scenario, for example, is Yair Lapid, who’s standing in the sidelines waiting for his turn to run for prime minister,” Nir said.  “He has said that he sees himself as a future candidate for premiership and that he is going to challenge — he actually said that — that he’s going to challenge Netanyahu.”

But hasn’t Lapid said he would never agree to divide Jerusalem? 

Yes, says Nir.  But that kind of “sloganeering” could change.  “Because you may remember when Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem…, his mantra was, ‘a unified Jerusalem forever and ever,’” said Nir.  “But when the time came to look the reality in the eyes and look at what a future peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would entail, he understood that Jerusalem would have to be divided.”

That said, Nir believes that the Palestinians should not wait another four years before returning to negotiations. 

“For Abbas — to say to himself, ‘I should wait because I may get a better deal in the future’ would be a huge gamble, because while there may be a different leadership, maybe a leadership that is more prone to compromise in the future, he may end up facing a situation where that leader that he’s hoping for cannot maneuver anymore because the status quo has become irreversible,” Nir said.

Unlike Hoffman, Nir believes the Palestinians are in the process of becoming more radical, and this creates an urgent need for talks sooner. 

“The kind of leadership that you have there [on the Palestinian side] today, which is still a product of the Oslo era…committed to nonviolence and to peace, may, because of the status quo, crumble, collapse and become totally irrelevant to Palestinian politics, and what you will end up with is the radicals, and you really, really won’t have a partner there,” Nir said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. secretary of state is said to be frustrated with both sidesAbbas says that if Kerry cannot come up with a clear offer from Israel by June 20, he may dismantle the Palestinian Authority.  Meanwhile, Israel says it will approve four new West Bank settlements and has refused Kerry’s request to release Palestinian prisoners or to offer any other concessions ahead of talks.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid