‘WaPo’ columnist embraces Condi Rice’s peace process fiction

468 map
(MAP OF EHUD OLMERT’S OFFER TO MAHMOUD ABBAS, VIA HAARETz.COM/IMEU)

David Ignatius adds another chapter to the endless corporate media narrative of Palestinian rejectionism in a recent Washington Post column.

The column relies on former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s description in her memoir of a proposed Israeli peace offer to Mahmoud Abbas that was presented in the summer of 2008, an offer Ignatius calls “the Mideast deal that could have been.” But Ignatius’ sole reliance on Rice’s telling of the deal ignores evidence that Olmert’s offer was highly problematic for a potential state of Palestine. A closer look at the column is needed, especially because the narrative Ignatius advances has been getting a lot of play lately; the excerpts of the memoir that Ignatius relies on were published with the laughable title “Best. Deal. Ever” in Newsweek magazine last month.

 Ignatius, an associate editor at the Post, writes:

As Rice tells the story, Olmert developed a comprehensive plan, which he presented secretly to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, in the summer of 2008. By September, the details of Olmert’s offer included:
● Israeli transfer of sovereignty of 94.2 percent of the West Bank to the new Palestinian state. He offered additional swaps of land, and a corridor linking the West Bank and Gaza, that would bring the total Palestinian land area to 100 percent of the pre-1967 borders of the West Bank.
● A formula for dividing Jerusalem that would give Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians and Jewish neighborhoods to Israel, with negotiators working out the status of mixed neighborhoods. Each country would have Jerusalem as its capital; there would be a joint city council with an Israeli mayor and a Palestinian deputy mayor.
● The Old City would be administered by an international committee with representatives from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the European Union and the United States. Questions of sovereignty in Jerusalem would be fudged, with each side rejecting the other’s claims.
● The “right of return” for Palestinians would be limited to about 5,000. To compensate other Palestinian refugees, a fund of several billion dollars would be created, under Norwegian administration.
● The United States would protect Israel’s security not just with U.S. power but by training a reliable Palestinian security force

He concludes the column by writing: “Olmert’s map, now dust in the wind, may be the best formula we’ll ever get for the peaceful creation of the Palestinian state that will cement Israel’s own security.” But the devil is in the details–and a close look at Olmert and his team’s offer shows that it was far from being a credible offer that the Palestinian leadership could bring back to its people.

Documents released as part of the “Palestine Papers” definitively show that Olmert’s offer was nothing special; it would instead have confined Palestinians to disconnected enclaves that bear no resemblance to a contiguous state.

The following excerpt specifically deals with the back and forth over two crucial settlements, Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, whose annexation by Israel would render any Palestinian state a meaningless and non-contiguous.

Here’s an excerpt from a June 15, 2008 document titled “Trilateral Meeting Minutes”:

Abu Ala’: – We do not want to live in enclaves. We want people to live in peace and to fight against terrorism.

* Perhaps Ma’ale Adumim will remain under Palestinian sovereignty and it could be a model for cooperation and coexistence. We may also have international forces and make security arrangements for some time. It is the location of Ma’ale Adumim not its size.

* There is also Ariel settlement which was set up on the largest water basin. It was not set up simply to provide Israeli with housing units but rather to control the water basin.

Livni: – The idea behind our desire to annex Ariel settlement was not to get more water but because thousands of people live there. We want to have an answer for those who have lived there for forty years.

And, as the Guardian noted, in the “Palestine Papers” Condoleeza Rice is seen pushing the Israeli position of “no deal without Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim”:

If the Palestinians kept insisting that Israel could not keep the large settlements of Ma’ale Adumim (near Jerusalem) and Ariel (in the heart of the West Bank), Rice told them: “You won’t have a state”. No Israeli leader could accept a deal “without including them in an Israeli state”.

The settlements of Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim weren’t the only obstacle, though. The Institute for Middle East Understanding has a useful list of the other big problems with Olmert’s deal:

-According to Ha’aretz, much of the land Olmert reportedly offered Abbas in exchange for crucial areas of Jerusalem and the West Bank was carved out of the barren Judean Desert, south of the West Bank.

-Olmert reportedly offered to allow the return of only 5,000 Palestinian refugees, a tiny fraction of the 4.3 million who are registered with the UN. This issue alone would have made it nearly impossible for Abbas to gain support for the plan among the Palestinian people.

-According to Rice’s account, Olmert demanded that Abbas sign his map without consulting his own advisors and legal experts, and refused to allow Abbas to take a copy of the map to the Palestinian negotiators. It would have been unusual and irresponsible for Abbas to unilaterally sign an agreement in secret and without first consulting his team.

-The negotiations brokered by Rice, which began at the 2007 Annapolis conference, were not designed to produce a final peace agreement. Rather, these talks had the less ambitious goal of a “shelf agreement,” to be implemented at a later date.

-By the time Olmert made his offer, he had been under investigation for corruption for months and was fending off calls for his resignation. Olmert’s political weakness at the time casts into doubt his ability to conclude a peace agreement.

Clearly, this was not “the Mideast deal that could have been.” The narrative that Ignatius and Rice are pushing is just peace process fiction.

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and blogger based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Israel/Palestine | Tagged , , , , , ,

{ 27 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. It certainly was close.

    Per Bernard Avishai interview with both Abbas and Olmert, they agreed that with a few more months that they would confidently have a peace proposal to bring to the peoples for ratification.

    When Netanyahu’s government assumed power, Abbas did submit a counter proposal to the Israeli foreign ministry, which was never opened and was returned to the PA agent sealed.

    The continuity is important. All of the important proposals have occurred at the 11th hour, under politically strained conditions, itself a recipe for rejection.

    At the same time, proposals that have been made at the first hour, have been distorted, deflected, and then dismissed.

    Those that have a constructive view, that desire to construct a peace, can if they are empowered to, and given sufficient time and support.

    It is those on the flanks that desire that peace not occur, each from their own set of reasons, fears, hopes, opportunism.

    One thing that is evident from the map, really residual of pre-1948 settlement patterns, is the “finger” strategy, of establishing sequences of settlements that extend as a finger into the territory. Militarily, it is both advantageous siting and vulnerable. And, those two characteristics remain, and remain as arguing points to be used opportunistically.

    If there was a basis of confidence of safety ror Jewish minority within Palestine, then the literal 67 borders would serve as a coherent boundary, a much shorter frontier to guard.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      If there was a basis of confidence of safety ror Jewish minority within Palestine

      I’m sorry, is it the Jews on the West Bank who are the victims of pogroms? Are they having acres of farmland burned? Is it their school children who are being attacked? Jewish stores on the West Bank are the ones who end up spray-painted with Stars of David?

      You reject the 1967 borders, Witty, and you reject the two state solution. You just documented that for perpetuity.

    • Richard Witty,

      You say the deal was close, but that Abbas’ counter offer came too late. 11th hour proposals are a recipe for rejection, you say. I wonder, why would you think that the issue of continuity was only raised in that “11th hour proposal?” Do you honestly think that the Palestinian delegations didn’t voice objections to the continuity issue earlier in negotiations? If so, any evidence to support your belief?

      I have to say, for all your exhortations on those “flanks” that do not desire peace, your addiction to the illusion of parity makes you yourself an obstacle of peace. By constantly conflating Israeli rejectionism with Palestinian rejectionism all you do is cover for an Israeli government determined to obstruct and reject peace or justice. This conflict is not equal. The forces at play trying to cement the status quo are not equal. Pretending that there is a level playing field only makes your insights utterly worthless, they offer nothing to the discussion when draped in such fantasies of centrism.

      • The response was delivered to the Netanyahu government.

        Ask Bernard Avishai his impressions after his exhaustive personal interviews with both Abbas and Olmert.

        They both declared subsequently that they were confident that given a couple more months, they could have drafted a proposal that met all of the primary concerns of both parties, that they believed could be ratified.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          …and how many new settlement units does Israel usually build, non-stop, of the course of any given couple of months?

          Witty, Israel has discredited itself as a willing negotiation partner.

    • Patrick says:

      “It certainly was close.”

      Really? It seems more likely to me that this provides a convincing demonstration that the two-state solution can not be achieved. After all, under the ‘best deal ever’, Israel nevertheless insists on maintaining a series of settlements that penetrate deeply into the West Bank. Not only would these settlements effectively break up Palestine into a collection of separated enclaves, they are also located over major acquifers in the WB.

      Needless to say, there’s simply no basis here for establishment of a Palestinian state. That would have to be based closely on the ’67 lines, or not at all. And Israel would have to confront the settlers, something it has proven itself profoundly incapable of doing.

  2. pabelmont says:

    “* There is also Ariel settlement which was set up on the largest water basin. It was not set up simply to provide Israeli with housing units but rather to control the water basin.

    Livni: – The idea behind our desire to annex Ariel settlement was not to get more water but because thousands of people live there. We want to have an answer for those who have lived there for forty years.”

    IT WAS ALWAYS ABOUT WATER.
    ISRAEL NOW HAS A SEVERE WATER PROBLEM.
    PALESTINIANS HAVE A WORSE ONE BECAUSE OF ISRAELI WITHDRAWALS. DONT FORGET Israeli water-taking from SHEBAA FARMS (LEBANON/SYRIA)

    • Kathleen says:

      I have read that water was the issue that broke down the discussions between Barak and Afafat. Although persistent building and expanding of illegal settlements, illegal housing in E Jerusalem, right of return..

  3. Kathleen says:

    Rice has been all over the place repeating falsehoods and inflaming the situation with Iran. On the Daily show Jon Stewart allowed her to repeat numerous falsehoods. She said that there were no inspectors in Iraq since 1998. Stewart did not simply say that there were inspectors in Iraq in 2002 and the Bush administration did not allow them to complete those inspections. Stewart just nodded his head and said “yes, right uh huh , right” No challenges. And then let her inflame the situation with Iran.

    Stewarts interview with “mushroom cloud” This is the second time Stewart has allowed Rice to piss all over the public again with her falsehoods and promote a new book
    link to thedailyshow.com

    Please do not give me that horseshit that Stewart is just a comedian. Others allow him to hide behind this weak excuse all of the time. If he is just a “comedian” then he should not give these warmongers an opportunity to come on his show to promote their new spin books and not make fun of their lies.

    Then Rice was on Chritiane Amanpour’s “This Week” and said “Iran is after nuclear weapons” and said ‘we should do everything to take Iran down” Amanpour offered no challenges. Zero

    “mushroom cloud” is making the rounds. Why do these outlets recycle the same warmongers who are drowning in the Iraqi and American soldiers blood based on their lies on their programs to discuss Iran? Why not experts who were right about the Iraq invasion and who know a great deal about Iran like the Leveretts? What is up with this bloody recycling of terribly wrong warmongers?

    Rice interview at 37;00
    link to abcnews.go.com
    ———————————————————————
    Rice protected the NSA’s John Boltons alleged spying on Colin Powell. She was loyal to Bush and the lies and still is.

    link to guardian.co.uk

    “Rice’s response to the seemingly endless stream of witnesses has been to order state department senior staff to stanch the flow of adverse stories.
    The good soldier’s revenge

    In Colin Powell’s battle to block Bush’s nominee to the UN, far more is at stake than John Bolton’s unsuitability

    “This whole building knows how Bolton dealt with people,” a dismayed senior state department official told me. “If she is sending a different signal than Powell sent that will be difficult. The muzzle is being put on, the damage is being done. To the extent it’s buttoned up here, it’s dangerous for the secretary. Powell and Armitage created an environment of accountability about treatment of the staff. Any kind of allegation that you did things like Bolton did was death in the foreign service. Persons were removed. Now she’s trying to be a team player, trying to support someone Powell ostracized.”

    Indeed, last year Powell and Rice had a confrontation over an allegation that a national security council officer close to Rice, Robert Blackwill, had physically assaulted a female foreign-service officer. Initially, Rice tried to protect him, but Powell and Armitage presented the evidence to her and told her that if she didn’t discipline Blackwill the matter would be made public. Blackwill was forced to resign. ”

    SAME ARTICLE:

    “If the intercepts are released they may disclose whether Bolton was a key figure in a counter-intelligence operation run inside the Bush administration against the secretary of state, who would resemble the hunted character played by Will Smith in Enemy of the State. Both Republican and Democratic senators have demanded that the state department, which holds the NSA intercepts, turn them over to the committee. But Rice so far has refused. What is she hiding by her cover-up?

    Rice’s rise has been dependent on her unwavering devotion to the president; in the Bolton case, she is again elevating loyalty to her leader above all else. Will Powell lose once more? But this episode points beyond the general’s revenge, Rice’s fealty, Bolton’s contempt or even presidential prerogative, to a gathering storm over constitutional government. “

  4. Chaos4700 says:

    Even if this were true, it’s still an atrocity. I don’t care how Jewish you are, if you murder civilians to drive them away and take their land, you are engaging in the doctrine of lebensraum.

  5. dahoit says:

    The eyes are a window to the soul.I’ve never seen a worse set than on Condi lying spoiled Rice.

  6. Whizdom says:

    When this was occurring, the Knesset warned Olmert that due to his indictment on corruption charges, he had no authority to make peace deals. He was fully enabled, however, to make war on Gazans, in Cast Lead.

  7. Kathleen says:

    “-According to Rice’s account, Olmert demanded that Abbas sign his map without consulting his own advisors and legal experts, and refused to allow Abbas to take a copy of the map to the Palestinian negotiators. It would have been unusual and irresponsible for Abbas to unilaterally sign an agreement in secret and without first consulting his team.”

    This is interesting.

    “The narrative that Ignatius and Rice are pushing is just peace process fiction.”

    Neither one of them are strangers to pushing fiction

  8. Condoleezza Rice is a class A war criminal who tricked Americans with her “mushroom cloud” propaganda. Her opinions on Israel and Palestine don’t matter. The only thing out of her mouth which is of any interest, is her defense when she stands trial for her crimes against the Iraqi and American nations.

    • Hostage says:

      The only thing out of her mouth which is of any interest, is her defense when she stands trial for her crimes against the Iraqi and American nations.

      Well I’d like to hear a defense of her “playing for time” tactic during the 2006 War in Lebanon and Operation Cast Lead. Thousands of people died as a direct result of her refusal to endorse otherwise unanimous calls for immediate cease fires. That’s bad enough without bothering to mention the role she played in instigating the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during her terms as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. She’s one of the worst criminals we’ve had on the tax rolls lately.

  9. seafoid says:

    One of the Canadians on the boat to Gaza said the Israelis offered to check the boat for explosives. Just one check and one person and then they could go to Gaza . Some of the people fell for it. The Irish didn’t. And look what they actually did to the latest flotilla. Psychopaths.

    There ain’t no way to hide those lying Zionist eyes.
    Olmert never made a credible offer. They just want the land. All of it.

    link to english.aljazeera.net

  10. W.Jones says:

    The map makes things more obvious. Look what a wonderful peace deal we can give you- we will take the blue areas in the most developed land around cities and expand your desert area more.

    • Avi_G. says:

      The map is a fabrication because Israel never offered the Jordan Valley as part of the so-called peace offer. In addition, the contiguous areas (Geographic continuity) between the northern parts of the Palestinian areas of the West Bank and the southern parts (i.e. all the yellow) — with Jerusalem being the divider between north and south — was never part of the actual Israeli offer.

      WaPo is printing pure lies.

      • Am_America says:

        care to show us the actual offer Avi_G you seem to have insider information.

        • annie says:

          there was no ‘actual offer’. educate yourself please!

        • Chaos4700 says:

          Care to prove there was ever any offer at all? Never mind that this one is utter crap.

        • Avi_G. says:

          Am_America November 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm

          care to show us the actual offer Avi_G you seem to have insider information.

          What follows is classified information that was not meant for public distribution. So, you didn’t hear this from me.

          OK. You know how one can walk and walk and never actually fall off the edge of the Earth? Well, the information I have is going to knock you off your socks. A little birdie told me that, as it turns out, the Earth is actually a sphere. I know, you’re thinking, “Holy s****.”

          OK, now that I have shared my insider knowledge, let me make the following clear; I was never here and you didn’t hear that from me. Got that?

      • James says:

        i don’t understand why anyone bothers going near either the wapo or the nyt… 2 propaganda rags plain and simple…

  11. kalithea says:

    And the hasbara minions keep rubbing this “90%” offer in our face. This is what GREED and lust for Palestinian land looks like.

    Zionists want their cake and eat it too. Instead it’s going to be smeared on their faces. What a joke!