YERUSHALAYIM - President Donald Trump plans to send his Middle East negotiation experts Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner back to the region to try to persuade Israel and the Palestinian Authority to once again hold direct talks, with an eye towards advancing at least a temporary-status agreement between the two sides – but the PA is likely to balk at holding talks, at least for now, the London-based Arabic Al-Shaq al-Awsat reported Sunday.
That’s because the Palestinian Authority fears that whatever progress it makes with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could fall by the wayside if Netanyahu is removed from office or forced to resign because of one of the criminal investigations he is facing. Calling it the “Olmert precedent,” a senior PA official said that the Authority feared that, like former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu could be relieved of his duties, and any deal he agrees to could be rejected by a new and presumably more right-wing government.
Olmert in 2008 offered the PA a deal in which Israel would keep the major settlement blocs, including the Ariel bloc, the Yerushalayim-Maaleh Adumim bloc (including E1) and Gush Etzion, a total of 6.3 percent of Yehudah and Shomron. In return, Israel would cede the same amount of land to the PA, including land in the Negev, areas around Gaza, and in the Judean Desert. The main Olmert concession was on Har HaBayis and in the Old City; Israel would surrender sovereignty on Har HaBayis, with management of the site the responsibility of an international committee of nations.
Israel backtracked on that plan after Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister in 2009, with Israel now offering the PA far less than Olmert did. In order to avoid another “disappointment,” with Netanyahu offering a deal that will only be rescinded by a future government, the PA official said that the Authority would prefer to wait until Netanyahu irons out his legal issues. “We don’t want a repeat of the Olmert situation,” the official said. “As long as Netanyahu is under investigation his future is not clear. We do not wish to enter negotiations when the results are likely to be inconclusive. The process is exhausting, and hammering out the details is too difficult to waste time on a process that will end up going nowhere.”