Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is under no obligation to honor any of the commitments that former prime minister Ehud Olmert made to the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s associates said on Saturday night, reiterating statements Netanyahu made throughout his campaign for the premiership a year and a half ago.
Olmert wrote an opinion piece for Friday’s Jerusalem Post in which he called on Netanyahu to offer the Palestinians what he did, which he first revealed to the public in a June 2009 interview with Newsweek’s Kevin Peraino.
“Olmert told me he met with Palestinian [Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas in September 2008 and unfurled a map of Israel and the Palestinian territories,” Peraino wrote. “He says he offered Abbas 93.5 to 93.7 percent of the Palestinian territories, along with a land swap of 5.8% and a safe-passage corridor from Gaza to the West Bank that he says would make up the rest. The Holy Basin of Jerusalem would be under no sovereignty at all and administered by a consortium of Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.”
Regarding refugees, Olmert says he rejected the right of return and instead offered, as a “humanitarian gesture,” a small number of returnees, although “smaller than the Palestinians wanted – a very, very limited number.”
In a Tel Aviv speech sponsored by the Geneva Initiative last Sunday, Olmert revealed that the “very, very limited number of refugees” Israel was willing to accept was 20,000. He also claimed that the United States had offered to accept 100,000.
When top Bush administration officials denied that an offer of such a large number could have been made, sources close to Olmert hinted that it came from either George W. Bush himself or his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. Olmert did not reveal who made the offer in the article.
“Olmert said all along that the terms of his negotiations were that there would be no deal on anything until there was a deal on everything, so not only would Netanyahu not have to accept anything Olmert offered, but even Olmert wouldn’t,” a Netanyahu associate said.
“What Olmert told the Post has no impact on us.”
MKs close to Netanyahu went further and specifically ruled out Netanyahu accepting a single Palestinian refugee or giving the Palestinians or any foreign entity control over Jerusalem’s Holy Basin, singling out the Temple Mount and Western Wall.
When asked whether they thought they could make peace without paying the price that Olmert was willing to pay, Netanyahu’s confidants would only say that this was what the current negotiations were intended to determine.
“There is no situation in which Netanyahu or any Likud leader could offer the Palestinians what Olmert offered, especially regarding Jerusalem,” said Likud faction chairman Ze’ev Elkin, who is close to Netanyahu. “I don’t think any Likud MK would vote for it, and the public would be overwhelmingly against it as well.”
Likud hawk MK Danny Danon said the problem was not with Netanyahu but with the president of the United States, Barack Obama.
“I don’t believe Netanyahu would have considered Olmert’s conditions but there is no doubt that Obama sees them as obligatory,” Danon said. “They don’t understand that we had an election that changed the reality in Israel.”
Meanwhile, Labor officials denied a report in Friday’s Yediot Aharonot that quoted an international businessman who tried to mediate a deal for Barak to join Kadima following 2006’s Second Lebanon War, when he was out of the Knesset.
The report said that Barak offered to break up the Labor faction and take a third of it with him in return for the Defense portfolio.
“Olmert is once again rewriting history and distorting reality in order to distract the public from the envelopes of bribes he received,” a Labor spokesman said. “The initiatives and strange ideas portrayed in the newspaper have come from Olmert’s wild imagination.
“Any offers made to Barak were politely declined.”
Baruch atem b'Shem, Yeshua