Israel’s daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, has revealed details of the meeting held between outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and U.S. special envoy George Mitchell. In the meeting Mr. Olmert detailed commitments that he had given Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which the next Israeli government will have to cope with. Mr. Olmert will leave office in a few weeks, pending allegations of massive embezzlement from American philanthropists.
Over lunch at the Prime Minister’s Residence, Mr. Olmert presented President Barack Obama’s envoy with the commitments that he and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had made. The first commitment involves Mr. Olmert’s plan removing 60,000 Jews from areas designated for an independent Palestinian state.
Prof. Eliav Schochetman, Hebrew University professor of law and dean of the Shaari Mishpat Law College in Netanya, Israel, said a policy that singles out one ethnic group for expulsion would violate clause 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 1948 U.N. document says it is illegal for sovereign governments to expel their citizens from their homes, private properties and farms.
As for Jerusalem, Mr. Olmert reportedly told Mr. Mitchell that he has committed to transferring sovereignty of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods to Palestinian sovereignty once and independent Palestinian state were to become a reality. This is despite the fact Arab and Jewish neighborhoods are intertwined with one another.
Many Israelis have concerns such a situation would threaten the safety of Jerusalem’s Jewish communities throughout the city.
Mr. Olmert also told Mr. Mitchell that he had committed the Israeli government to ceding control of the holy places to an international administration that would supervise access and ensure that believers of the three faiths be able to hold their religious practices without disturbance.
Such an arrangement for internationalization of the holy places would be identical to the administrative arrangement organized by the United Nations in 1949, which assured access of all religions to the holy places in Jerusalem. However, in practice, access was completely denied to Jews who wished to visit any Jewish holy place in the Old City of Jerusalem, from 1949 until 1967.
These Olmert commitments would bind Ms. Livni because she was a full partner to the negotiations with Mr. Abbas.
Prime Minister Olmert also allegedly told Mr. Mitchell about the results of the indirect talks held over the past year with top Syrian officials through the intervention of Turkish mediators.
In Mr. Olmert’s estimate, in return for a peace agreement with Damascus, Israel would have to withdraw from the Golan Heights, and nothing less would be acceptable to the Syrians. Mr. Olmert’s spokespeople will not answer the question as to whether Syria would ever cancel its territorial designs on the Upper Galilee region of Israel.
Israel took control of the Golan in 1967 at the demand of the Galilee regional council, which demanded an end to Syrian shelling of the Galilee. The question of prevent future such shelling without keeping the Golan in Israeli hands remains one Israeli officials decline to discuss.