Israel offers Palerstine 93 percent of West Bank: report

August 12th, 2008 - 9:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Jerusalem, Aug 12 (DPA) Eight months into its difficult negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel has drawn up a detailed proposal for a peace agreement in principle, offering to withdraw from 93 percent of the West Bank, an Israeli newspaper reported Tuesday. The proposal includes arrangements on three bottleneck issues of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict: borders, the Palestinian refugee problem and security, the authoritative Ha’aretz daily reported quoting a senior Israeli official.

But it sidelines the issue of Jerusalem, postponing a solution on that highly sensitive issue until later, the report said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented the proposal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and was awaiting a reply, Ha’aretz said.

A senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, however, called the report in Ha’aretz a “bunch of half truths”, and vehemently denied that the issue of Jerusalem was off the negotiating table.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said he doubted Olmert’s offer was “serious”.

According to the report in Ha’aretz, Olmert offered the Palestinians land in the southern Israeli Negev desert, adjacent to the Gaza Strip, compensating for 5.5 percent of the 7 percent of the West Bank that Israel wants to annex. This would allow Israel to keep its major Jewish settlement blocs.

In addition, the Palestinians would get a free passage, which would link the Gaza Strip with the West Bank, but nominally remain under Israeli sovereignty.

According to the Ha’aretz leak, which comes as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected in the region next week, Olmert feels he has no time left to reach an agreement during his remaining period in office.

He is under police investigation over suspicions of corruption and has announced he will resign as soon as his ruling Kadima party elects a new leader next month.

Olmert and Abbas pledged late last year to try and reach a peace deal by the end of 2008. They have since held troubled but intense negotiations, that ended a seven-year freeze in the peace process.

The Ha’aretz report is the first detailed account leaked of the highly classified negotiations since they began in December. The talks are held away from the media due to their sensitive nature.

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