Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week said that though he pushed hard for Israel to make painful concessions in return for peace with the Arabs, in hindsight he now realizes that Palestinian leaders have no interest in ending the conflict.
In an interview with The Australian, Olmert revealed that during the last months of his premiership in late 2008 he made a comprehensive peace proposal to the Palestinians that included dividing Jerusalem.
According to the proposal, Israel would pull out of nearly all Judea and Samaria, and compensate the Palestinians with land inside sovereign Israel for the large settlement blocs that would remain intact. Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority would be given full sovereignty over the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, while the Old City area of the city would be administered jointly by Israel, the Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United States.
Olmert said he presented this proposal, together with a detailed map, to Abbas in late-2008. The Palestinians promised to respond the next day, but then said they forgot about a scheduled trip to neighboring Jordan and would have to get back to Olmert later. He never heard from them again.
"We should ask [Abbas] to respond to this plan. If they say no, there's no point negotiating," said Olmert.
Olmert's newfound skepticism regarding the intentions of his Palestinian "peace partners" mirrors the lesson current Defense Minister Ehud Barak learned when as prime minister in 2000 he offered Yasser Arafat nearly all the land he demanded, only to have the former Palestinian leader reject the offer and launch the "second intifada."