Report: Olmert Willing to Give 90% of Territory
With Prime Minister Ehud Olmert under the police investigators' gun, sources imply he has agreed to give away 89% of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinian Authority - and some say even more.
On Tuesday morning, while the Israeli media was rife with reports of expected "dramatic developments" in the latest criminal investigation against the Prime Minister, it was also reported that "major progress" had been made between Israeli and PA negotiators on the issue of final borders.
Abbas to Israel: Agree - or I Quit
At the same time, PA Chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) continued to pressure Olmert by threatening to resign his post if Israel does not agree to his terms for a final peace agreement. Olmert and Abbas last met on Monday.
A Palestinian Authority journalist told the PA website Falestin Al-Yam on Tuesday that the talks are essentially stuck over the last 10%, more or less, of Judea and Samaria. Israel has offered to give up 89% of the total area and annex the rest, while the PA continues to demand 98.5%.
PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh released a statement confirming that the Abbas-Olmert meeting dealt with the issue of borders, but said that "extensive gaps" remain between the sides. Contrary to the 1.5%-report above, Rudeineh said that Abbas is still insisting on 100% of what he calls the "West Bank."
Reuters reports that Olmert has privately expressed willingness to give up "90-something" percent of Judea and Samaria, and that he is likely to offer at least 92%. A land-swap offer of another 4-6% is also a possibility, according to this report, though Abbas is prepared to accept less than half of that.
The PA also demands - and Israel has apparently agreed to give - a corridor through the heart of Israel connecting Judea and Gaza. This, even though the two districts were never politically linked before the Oslo Accords of 1999 placed both of them under Palestinian Authority control.
Abbas May Turn to Arabs
While some say that Abu Mazen is threatening to quit, others foresee different scenarios. A "senior PA source" is quoted in the Arabic-language Al-Kuds Al-Arabiye newspaper today as saying, "If the talks do not lead to results by the end of 2008, Abu Mazen will address the Palestinian nation [sic] in which he will announce that the negotiations have failed and that he will try to reach understandings with the Arab nations."
Back in 2000, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak reportedly offered the PA between 95 and 98% of Judea and Samaria, but was turned down - and received the Oslo War instead.
Hamas, for its part, appears to be happy over Fatah's disappointment at the rate of the talks, but is still wary that a deal may be being worked out under its nose. A Hamas spokesman said, "Abu Mazen and his people have not brought the Palestinian public real diplomatic achievements. Even after 30 meetings, they have not managed to convince the occupiers to remove even one Zionist checkpoint." In actuality, however, Israel has removed several anti-terrorism checkpoints throughout Judea and Samaria, to the army's consternation.