Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Arabic daily claims Trump to announce Netanyahu-Abbas talks during Israel visit

Arabic daily claims Trump to announce Netanyahu-Abbas talks during Israel visit: Al-Hayat says US president gearing up to launch new peace process; PA leader reportedly asked Trump to base negotiations on 2008 Olmert offer

US President Donald Trump will announce the resumption of peace talks between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his upcoming visit to the region, an Arabic daily reported Wednesday.

According to the London-based Al-Hayat, Trump is expected to announce a trilateral summit with the two leaders during his one-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on May 22.

At the White House last week, Abbas reportedly told Trump that his negotiations with former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert nearly a decade ago should form the basis of any future peace talks with Netanyahu.

A Palestinian spokesperson told the Haaretz daily on Tuesday that Abbas showed Trump documents and maps with the details of the 2008 Olmert proposal.

Olmert said in 2015 that during his negotiations with Abbas he had offered a near-total withdrawal from the West Bank, proposing that Israel retain 6.3% of the territory in order to keep control of major Israeli population centers. He said he offered to compensate the Palestinians with Israeli land equivalent to 5.8% of the West Bank, along with a link to the Gaza Strip — another territory, relinquished by Israel in 2005, that Palestinians seek as part of a future Palestinian state.

He also said he offered to withdraw from Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, and place the Old City — home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites — under international control. He described the offer to give up Israeli control of the Old City as the hardest day of his life.

The PA leader ultimately balked at Olmert’s 2008 offer, and later cited the then-prime minister’s legal troubles at the time as the primary reason for his refusal. Olmert would later resign to fight corruption allegations, and Abbas doubted the Israeli leader had the political clout to see the deal through. Olmert is currently serving a 26-month jail sentence on various corruption charges.

Abbas told Israel’s Channel 10 in 2015 that he supported the idea of territorial swaps, but ultimately rejected the offer because Olmert pressed him into agreeing to the plan without allowing him to study the proposed map. He also said Olmert’s offer to accept a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees into Israel did not resolve the refugee issue.

On Monday, The Times of Israel asked Abbas’s foreign affairs adviser Nabil Shaath whether the PA president had shown the maps to Trump, but the veteran negotiator said he couldn’t confirm that detail.

But Shaath did say the so-called final status issues raised since the Oslo peace process in the 1990s would be a part of the negotiations, including Jerusalem, borders, refugees and settlements.

Earlier this week, Abbas said he was ready to meet Netanyahu as part of Trump’s efforts to restart the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

As he hosted Abbas in Washington, Trump last week confidently predicted that a peace agreement was within grasp, brushing aside the complexities of a decades-old conflict that has bedeviled successive US leaders.

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