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In memoir, Rice says 'historic peace' nearly reached

Oct. 25, 2011 11:59 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 27, 2011 10:56 A.M.)
WASHINGTON (Ma'an) -- In Condoleezza Rice's new memoir, No Higher Honor, the former US secretary of state claims a "historic peace deal" between Israel and the Palestinians was once close at hand in 2007.

In the memoir, Rice says Israel's then-prime minister, Ehud Olmert, was ready to make "an extraordinary offer" to President Mahmoud Abbas, Newsweek Magazine reported Tuesday citing an advance copy.

"I'll give him enough land, maybe something like 94 percent with swaps," Olmert is quoted as saying. "There will be two capitals, one for us in West Jerusalem and one for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem."

"The mayor of the joint city council will be selected by population percentage."

Olmert continues that he would "accept some Palestinians into Israel, maybe five thousand. I don’t want it to be called family reunification because they have too many cousins; we won’t be able to control it."

Abbas would ultimately reject the deal because Olmert would not let him consult his advisors, demanding instead that he sign immediately. Abbas also said he could not compromise on the number of refugees.

Rice describes the 2007 meeting with Abbas: The next day I went to see Abbas and asked to see him in the little dining room adjacent to his office. I sketched out the details of Olmert’s proposal and told him how the prime minister wanted to proceed. Abbas started negotiating immediately. “I can’t tell four million Palestinians that only five thousand of them can go home,” he said. ...

In the waning months of our time in Washington, we tried one last time to secure a two-state solution. The Olmert proposal haunted the President and me. In September the prime minister had given Abbas a map outlining the territory of a Palestinian state. Israel would annex 6.3 percent of the West Bank. (Olmert gave Abbas cause to believe that he was willing to reduce that number to 5.8 percent.)

All of the other elements were still on the table, including the division of Jerusalem. Olmert had insisted that Abbas sign then and there. When the Palestinian had demurred, wanting to consult his experts before signing, Olmert refused to give him the map. The Israeli leader told me that he and Abbas had agreed to convene their experts the next day. Apparently that meeting never took place. ...

I talked to the President and asked whether he would be willing to receive Olmert and Abbas one last time. What if I could get the two of them to come and accept the parameters of the proposal? We knew it was a long shot. Olmert had announced in the summer that he would step down as prime minister. Israel would hold elections in the first part of the next year. He was a lame duck, and so was the President.

Still, I worried that there might never be another chance like this one. Tzipi Livni urged me (and, I believe, Abbas) not to enshrine the Olmert proposal. “He has no standing in Israel,” she said. That was probably true, but to have an Israeli prime minister on record offering those remarkable elements and a Palestinian president accepting them would have pushed the peace process to a new level. Abbas refused.

As George W Bush's term came to an end, Rice recalls feeling that "We had one last chance. The two leaders came separately in November and December to say good-bye. The President took Abbas into the Oval Office alone and appealed to him to reconsider. The Palestinian stood firm, and the idea died," she writes.

"Now, as I write in 2011, the process seems to have gone backward."

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