Thursday August 06, 2009
Not quite as gloomy as they look
The contours of a peace deal are clear. But who has the courage to draw them?
BACK in the autumn of last year, Ehud Olmert, then Israel’s fading prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinians’ more durable president, were astonishingly close to a peace deal. Judging by an interview with Mr Olmert published in NEWSWEEK in June, after he had given up his post, they appeared to have been only a whisker apart—though Mr Abbas has since called the gap “wide”. But it is worth spelling out what Mr Olmert says he offered, in an account that other senior Palestinians have pretty much verified. For it starkly shows what both sides need to do to clinch the deal—and how feasible it is.
According to the report, Mr Olmert offered the Palestinians nearly 94% of the West Bank as the basis of their would-be state, plus land swaps of Israeli territory to make up the difference, amounting to nearly 6%, plus a safe-passage road-corridor to link Gaza with the West Bank.
Mr Olmert is said to have also offered to internationalise the sovereignty of the “holy basin” of Jerusalem—principally, the Western (“Wailing”) Wall, which is sacred to Jews, and the al-Aqsa mosque (the Dome on the Rock) above it that is revered by Muslims. The city of Jerusalem, by implication, would be shared as a capital of both states, with the Palestinian one on the east side, the Israeli one on the west.
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