Olmert in last ditch effort to meet (most) Palestinian demands

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 |  Ryan Jones

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered the Palestinian Authority a preliminary final status peace agreement that would see Israel surrender 93 percent of Judea and Samaria.

Ha'aretz learned that Olmert presented the deal when he met last week with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, and is still waiting on a reply from the Palestinian side.

The offer also includes surrendering a small area of Israel's Negev desert to the Palestinians to make up for the 7 percent of the so-called "West Bank" where large Jewish towns today exist that Israel would retain.

New to this particular offer is Israel's readiness to provide free passage between Gaza and the West Bank without any security checks, but only after Abbas and his government manage to reassert control over Gaza, which is today ruled by Hamas.

Israel insists that all Palestinians refugees must be absorbed by the new Palestinian Arab state, and the issue of control over the eastern half of Jerusalem is left for later negotiations.

The document also details a complicated security arrangement, but demands that the Palestinian state not have a standing army with offensive capability.

The proposal is part of a push by Olmert and outgoing US President George W. Bush to conclude a preliminary or "shelf" agreement before both are out of office.

Initial reactions from many Israelis were skeptical, as Jerusalem has made similar offers to the Palestinians before only to have them blow up in Israel's face. Of particular concern is the offer of free passage between Gaza and Judea without security checks, a concession that will undoubtedly be exploited by Palestinian terror groups.

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