David Ignatius adopts a tone of wistfulness today reflecting upon Condoleeza Rice’s description of an offer Ehud Olmert made to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. According to Rice’s new book, Olmert secretly offered Abbas a Palestinian state on the following grounds:
- 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.
Ignatius laments: “And what happened to this miraculous package? Because it’s the Middle East, you know the answer: It died, with the United States on the sidelines hoping and praying but Olmert and Abbas too weak politically to take the leap.”
This is typical of American coverage of the conflict. The deal didn’t fail because “both sides” were “too weak.” As Ignatius relates in the same column, here’s what happened when Olmert (deeply unwisely, but that’s another matter) made the offer:
The collapse came the moment it seemed to become real. In September 2008, Olmert showed Abbas a map charting the boundaries of the new state. According to Rice, he asked Abbas to sign the deal on the spot, but the Palestinian leader balked and asked to consult his experts first. Olmert wouldn’t let him take a copy of the map, and the follow-up meeting never happened.
In other words, a deal that would have given the Palestinians pretty much everything they were purportedly seeking was rejected out of hand. Yet both Rice and Ignatius misinterpret it. A deal was so tantalizingly close, they cry.
The Palestinians have rejected deal after deal after deal. They’ve been doing so since 1947. The exact same scenario unfolded during the Clitnon Administration when Arafat walked away from a deal and was chased down Executive Drive by Madeleine Albright. When will it dawn on observers of this kabuki drama that there’s a reason they keep rejecting a Palestinian state. They don’t want a Palestinian state. They want Israel. End of story.