A Big Day For Abu Mazen

On Wednesday, the Central Council of the PLO indefinitely extended Mahmoud Abbas’ tenure of the Palestinian Authority.  This is coming a little over a month after the PLO leader stated that he will not participate in the next Palestinian elections.  It will be interesting to see how long Abbas will remain president, though Hamas, the Islamic leaders of Gaza, declared the extension of Abbas’ rule illegitimate.

Also on Wednesday, Abbas told the Ha’artz newspaper that peace was possible in six months if Israel agreed to a complete settlement freeze:

“I spoke with Defense Minister Ehud Barak twice over recent weeks,” Abbas said. “I suggested to him three weeks ago that Israel freeze all settlement construction for six months, including in East Jerusalem, without declaring it, just carrying it out in practice. I want to emphasize: without even declaring [the freeze]. But I demanded a complete freeze of settlement construction…  There are enough construction inspectors in the area,” Abbas continued. “During this time, we can return to the negotiating table and perhaps even achieve a final-status agreement. I have yet to receive an answer.”

Clearly, Abbas is optimistic.  Even if he is refusing to negotiate with Hamas.

It also came out that Israeli Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered land near Gaza in exchange for the Israeli settlements :

Olmert wanted to annex 6.3 percent of the West Bank to Israel, areas that are home to 75 percent of the Jewish population of the territories. His proposal would have also involved evacuation of dozens of settlements in the Jordan Valley, in the eastern Samarian hills and in the Hebron region. In return for the annexation to Israel of Ma’aleh Adumim, the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements, Ariel, Beit Aryeh and settlements adjacent to Jerusalem, Olmert proposed the transfer of territory to the Palestinians equivalent to 5.8 percent of the area of the West Bank as well as a safe-passage route from Hebron to the Gaza Strip via a highway that would remain part of the sovereign territory of Israel but where there would be no Israeli presence… Shaul Arieli of the Council for Peace and Security, which developed a map with a final border as part of the Geneva Initiative, said Israel’s capacity to swap territory with a future Palestinian state is more limited than what Olmert reportedly proposed. (my emphasis)

I wonder how plausible the highway between Gaza and the West Bank would be.  A highway through Israel territory in which there would be no Israeli presence?  I am not sure how possible that is.  Israel is already controlling the West Bank (including restricting travel around the Christmas holidays) so it isn’t a stretch of the imagination to think that ‘no Israeli presence’ would mean ‘controlled by Israel.’  The Olmert map has not been presented to current PM Netanyahu and likely won’t be.



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