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Olmert's legacy - an adoption of the Geneva Initiative

By Shimon Sheffer, Yediot Ahronot

Date: 29.01.09


Yediot Aharonot's cover story on Thursday, January 29th presents Olmert's promises to the Palestinians in the context of final status negotiations—promises nearly identical to the solutions offered in the Geneva Accord: Israel shall withdraw to the 1967 borders with 1:1 land swaps to maintain the large settlement blocks; Jerusalem will be the capital of both states, with the Arab neighborhoods becoming Palestinian and the Holy Sites under International control.

The report states:

As part of a private lunch at the Prime Minister's Residence, Olmert presented President Obama's envoy (George Mitchell) with the commitments made by him and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni tp the Palestinians as part of the final status talks. "60 thousand settlers our of the 250 thousand living in the territories shall be asked to evacuate their residences," the prime minister told Mitchell regarding the understandings reached, "and return to within the Green Line as part of a final status agreement with the Palestinians."

According to the Prime Minister, Israel agreed to withdraw to the '67 borders as part of a final status agreement, with border corrections that will keep the big settlement blocks in the territories in tact. In return for the annexation of settlement blocks, Israel will hand over land in Israel's south to the Palestinians, on a 1-1 km ratio. Olmert stressed that Ma'aleh Adumim, as an example, was part of one of the blocks annexed to Israel.

Olmert also promised a massive evacuation of settlements: 60 thousand Israeli settlers living among Palestinian population centers in the wWest Bank would be evacuated into land within the '67 borders. On the issue of Jerusalem, thus far regarded as a serious obstacle in talks with the Palestinians, , Israel agreed that the city would be divided and that the neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would be transferred to the Palestinians and placed under their sovereignty. Management and arrangements for the Holy Sites will be transferred to an International authority that would supervise access to these sites and ensure that observers of the three faiths can maintain their rituals without obstruction.

The Palestinian state would have territorial continuity though solutions such as overpaths or tunnels between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In doing this, Olmert places all the cards on the table. All the understandings, promises and achievements of the negotiations with the Palestinians are now known to the heads of the new U.S. administration. Political figures say Olmert is in effect "obliging the new government and forcing all the candidates to give the Obama administration their response to this detailed plan and to an arrangement with the Palestinians.

It's worth noting that a recent poll shows that the majority of Israelis would like the next government to pursue a final status agreement with the Palestinians.