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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid