Shaul Arieli, an Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians under several prime ministers, had much to say in an illuminating interview with +972 Magazine‘s Noam Sheizaf. A few of the many interesting passages are below.
On whether the Palestinians rejected a peace plan under Ehud Olmert:
I will quote Olmert himself: the Palestinians never refused. They didn’t accept some of our proposals, just as we didn’t accept some of theirs. Israelis think that Olmert gave “a generous offer” to the Palestinians. But the Palestinians would say the same. Mahmoud Abbas was ready for land swaps that would leave 75 percent of the settlers under Israeli authority, including in neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Abbas went a long way toward Israel on every issue.
On Benjamin Netanyahu’s goals:
Then Netanyahu came, and he had tremendous experience and knowledge on these issues. After all, he took pride once in his ability to kill the Oslo process. I served under Netanyahu and I think he still believes in what he wrote in his book in 1995 – that ‘placing a PLO state 15 km from the beach of Tel Aviv poses an existential threat to the state of Israel.’
Netanyahu, when he came back to office in 2009, didn’t try to introduce his own demands. He went to changing the terms of reference. He declared that 1967 borders won’t serve as basis for the negotiations, and if he accepts land swaps, it will never be in a 1:1 ratio. He wants to annex 10 percent of the West Bank and give the Palestinians 1 percent in return. The same goes for Jerusalem. As long as he continues to speak about a united Jerusalem, anything he might say about the two-state solution is meaningless.
Bibi is the one who moved back from what was agreed upon. There is no reason to enter negotiations without the principles that were agreed upon, without the framework.
Netanyahu wants the process, not the agreement. Bibi doesn’t care about the Palestinians. He is interested in the way Israel is treated by the world. So he will take his time, and as far as he is concerned it [the talks] can take forever.”