Report: Israel’s Olmert offered land swap
Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM (AP) – Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to swap Israeli territory near the Gaza Strip and West Bank in exchange for settlement blocs in the West Bank, the Haaretz newspaper reported Thursday, in the most detailed account of the former Israeli leader’s proposed concessions.
The Palestinians did not respond to the September 2008 proposal, submitted at a time when Olmert’s ability to negotiate a peace deal was compromised by corruption allegations that eventually forced him to step down. Talks broke down after Israel’s war against Gaza militants last winter and have not resumed.
In all, Olmert proposed ceding 5.8 percent of Israeli territory for 6.3 percent of the West Bank where 75 percent of the 300,000 Jewish settlers live. He offered nearly 39 square miles (100 square kilometers) of Israeli territory near the tiny Gaza Strip and nearly 88 square miles (227 square kilometers) near the West Bank, much of it from the Judean desert near the West Bank’s southern end, Haaretz said.
The former Israeli leader also proposed a road link through Israel to allow Palestinians to travel between the non-contiguous West Bank and Gaza. That highway would have remained sovereign Israeli territory but there would have been no Israeli presence there, Haaretz said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told Haaretz that Olmert presented several proposed maps.
Haaretz said the version it disclosed Thursday was based on sources who had received detailed information about Olmert’s proposals.
Olmert’s office said in response to Haaretz’s report that he had presented a map to Abbas on Sept. 16, 2008, that differed from the map published in Haaretz. The newspaper said Olmert is currently suggesting that his map provide the basis for resuming negotiations with the Palestinians.
Talks have stalled over the Palestinians’ demand that Israel freeze all construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which, like Gaza, were captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.
Israel, which withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, has agreed to slow construction in the West Bank. It has refused to halt it completely or impose any restrictions on building in east Jerusalem.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem immediately after the 1967 war in a move the international community has not recognized. The Palestinians claim that sector of the city, which contains the Old City shrines sacred to Islam, Judaism and Christianity, as capital of their future state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government will not give up any part of Jerusalem.