PA, Israel Almost Signed a Peace Deal in 2011: Report

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas addresses a press conference in the Bella Venezia room at the Rosenbad government office in Stockholm on February 10, 2015. AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand

Published Thursday, February 12, 2015

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and former Israeli President Shimon Peres were on the verge of signing an initial peace agreement between Israel and the PLO in 2011 but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a last-moment retraction, Israeli media reported Thursday.

Hebrew-language news site Walla reported that Abbas and Peres secretly carried out year-long talks in Jordan and other countries under the supervision of Netanyahu and were very close to signing a peace agreement in the summer of 2011.

Peres was scheduled to travel to the Jordanian capital Amman on July 28, 2011 to meet with Abbas and sign a deal after they had reached agreement on four major points with the approval of Netanyahu, who changed his mind at the last moment prompting Peres to cancel his visit to Amman.

The report did not specify the specific reason why Netanyahu pulled out at the last minute.

Abbas was on his way to Jordan when he received a phone call from Peres' office notifying him that Israel decided to cancel the deal. Abbas then had to return to Ramallah after he traveled halfway through the crossing between the occupied West Bank and Jordan, according to Walla.

The points which Abbas and Peres were about to sign, according to the report, consisted of: the creation of a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders with limited land swaps; a demilitarized Palestinian state; Jerusalem as the capital for both states, to be split between Palestinian and Israeli neighborhoods controlled by each state; a discussion to come to a solution over the issue of Palestinian refugees.

The Times of Israel quoted Israeli officials as saying that “the Palestinians showed significant flexibility on the refugee issue but refused to budge on the holy sites in Jerusalem.”

According to the daily, the PA suggested the refugees be presented with four options: to remain where they were, with a compensation package; to move to a third country also with compensation; to return to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines; or to return to Israeli-occupied territories, subject to the approval of the Israeli government.

The officials told the newspaper that Abbas “proposed to let Israel decide each year how many refugees it would allow in.”

Meanwhile, the report said an agreement wasn't reached over who would control the holy places in Jerusalem, as the Palestinians insisted to maintain control of them but the Israelis refused. However, it was decided to leave the issue for negotiations on a future permanent agreement.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-infamous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Jewish immigration rose considerably under the British administration of Palestine, which was consolidated by a League of Nations "mandate" in 1922.

In 1948, with the end of the mandate, a new state — Israel — was declared inside historical Palestine.

As a result, some 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes, or were forcibly expelled, while hundreds of Palestinian villages and cities were razed to the ground by invading Zionist forces.

The Palestinian diaspora has since become one of the largest in the world. Palestinian refugees are currently spread across the region and in other countries, while many have settled in refugee camps in the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the UN body set up in 1949 to provide humanitarian aid to who fled or were expelled during the 1948, there are an estimated 5,000,000 registered Palestinian refugees.

Israel then occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state — a move never recognized by the international community.

In 1988, Palestinian leaders led by Arafat declared the existence of a State of Palestine inside the 1967 borders and the State's belief "in the settlement of international and regional disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the charter and resolutions of the United Nations."

Heralded as a "historic compromise," the move implied that Palestinians would agree to accept only 22 percent, believed to have become 17 percent after massive Israeli settlement building, of historic Palestine in exchange for peace with Israel.

According to the PLO, between 1989 and 2014, the number of Israeli settlers on Palestinian land soared from 189,900 to nearly 600,000. These settlements, meanwhile, are located between and around Palestinians towns and villages, making a contiguous state next to impossible.

It is worth noting that numerous Palestinian factions, including Hamas, as well as pro-Palestine advocates support a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would be treated equally, arguing that the creation of a Palestinian state beside Israel would not be sustainable and that it would mean recognizing a state of Israel on territories seized forcefully by Zionists before 1967.

They also believe that the two-state solution, which is the only option considered by international actors, won't solve existing discrimination, nor erase economic and military tensions.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar)

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