According to Tom Friedman: Kerry plan gives Palestinians less than Olmert’s

Tom Friedman writes from Tel Aviv:

The “Kerry Plan,” likely to be unveiled soon, is expected to call for an end to the conflict and all claims, following a phased Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank (based on the 1967 lines), with unprecedented security arrangements in the strategic Jordan Valley. The Israeli withdrawal will not include certain settlement blocs, but Israel will compensate the Palestinians for them with Israeli territory. It will call for the Palestinians to have a capital in Arab East Jerusalem and for Palestinians to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. It will not include any right of return for Palestinian refugees into Israel proper.

If Friedman is right – and his account is in line with previous leaks – the “Kerry Plan” will be less favorable to the Palestinians than the final offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In a way, it rewards Netyanyahu for his hardline positions.

Olmert offered to take 25,000 Palestinian refugees into Israel (Abbas wanted 150,000). As for recognizing Israel as a Jewish state – Olmert did bring it up, but never made it a central part of his policy, especially not in the late stages of the talks. One could also take from Friedman’s column an assumption that Kerry won’t insist on 1:1 land swaps for the settlement blocs Israel intends to annex (though this is not entirely clear from the way Friedman phrases it). According to some accounts, Olmert came pretty close to 1:1 ratio.

Prime Minister Olmert was in trouble over corruption charges by the time he made his offer to Abbas. Both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and US deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams thought that Abbas would “break away with Olmert,” and indeed, negotiations did not continue.