It’s a Hard Fact. Abbas Turned Down Olmert’s Peace Deal

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas looks on as he addresses the special meeting of Human Rights Council at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland October 28. The facts are in: Abbas rejected the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal in 2008, the author writes. Pierre Albouy/Reuters

This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.

The question of what happened in the late 2008 Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas has been controversial since those talks took place.

But now we have the admission from Abbas that the Israeli version of events is correct: he said no.

In a lengthy interview with Israeli TV, the admission takes place:

At 24:05 of the video, Channel 10 reporter Raviv Drucker asked Abbas: “In the map that Olmert presented you, Israel would annex 6.3 percent [of the West Bank] and compensate the Palestinians with 5.8 percent [taken from pre-1967 Israel]. What did you propose in return?”

“I did not agree,” Abbas replied. “I rejected it out of hand.”

The interviews (including with Olmert) contain detail that will be of great interest to many people, but that’s the bottom line. Abbas walked away, just as Yasser Arafat had walked away at Camp David in 2000.

There are arguments, and I analyze them in my book Tested By Zion, about why Abbas said no: he was waiting to see the policies of a new U.S. president about to take office, or did not wish to sign with the lame duck Olmert, for example.

Others argue that Abbas lacked the legitimacy, or the guts, to sign a deal that Hamas would immediately have attacked, and that like Arafat he had never prepared Palestinians for the compromises peace would require. That is speculation.

What is not speculation is that Israel’s prime minister made a peace offer, and the Palestinian leader–head of the Fatah Party, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority–rejected it.

Those who wish to blame Israel for the continuing lack of progress in achieving a comprehensive peace agreement will presumably pay no attention to this interview, but the facts are in.

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.