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JERUSALEM – A detailed proposal for the creation of a Palestinian state that reportedly was presented by Israel to the Palestinian Authority in recent weeks was heavily influenced by the U.S. and is largely based on an American-drafted plan, WND has learned.
Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported yesterday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert handed to PA President Mahmoud Abbas a plan for an Israeli withdrawal from most of the strategic West Bank and for parts of the Israeli Negev desert – Israeli territory undisputed by the international community – to become part of a Palestinian state.
WND last week quoted a top Palestinian official stating Olmert told the PA he intends to accelerate negotiations the next few weeks to reach a deal on paper outlining a Palestinian state before he steps down from office next month.
Olmert earlier this month announced he will resign from office after his Kadima party holds internal elections next month to choose a new leader. He said he is stepping down due to a criminal investigation, described by police officials as "serious," in which he is accused of corruption and financial improprieties.
The Haaretz report says the deal, confirmed by diplomatic sources speaking to WND, was rejected last night by the Palestinians unless certain key modifications were made.
The proposal calls for Israel to evacuate 93 percent of the West Bank, while the Palestinians would receive territory equivalent to 5.5 percent of the West Bank, located in the Israeli Negev desert.
The plan grants the Palestinians passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on territory that would be jointly patrolled by Israel and the PA. The passageway would give the Palestinians access to areas close to central Israeli population centers.
Much of the plan previously was published by WND in a series of articles in recent months.
According to the plan Olmert sent to the PA, land to be annexed to Israel would include the large West Bank Jewish community blocs of Ma'aleh Adumim, Gush Etzion and the areas surrounding Jerusalem, and some land in the northern West Bank adjacent to Israel. The rest of the West Bank would be handed to the Palestinians.
An area from the Israeli Negev nearly equivalent in land mass to the territory Israel would retain in the West Bank would be transferred to the West Bank – marking the first official Israeli plan that calls for pre-1967 land to be given to the Palestinians. Pre-1967 refers to Israeli territory that was not reconquered in the 1967 Six Day War.
The plan would be set out on paper and implemented on the Israeli side in stages, while the PA would need to first retake control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas before Israel would give them most of the West Bank.
Mark Regev, Olmert's spokesman, refused to confirm yesterday to WND the existence of the plan as reported by Haaretz.
But Nabil Abu Rdainah, Abbas' spokesman, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA the plan presented by Olmert showed a "lack of seriousness" since it did not provide for a contiguous Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
Israeli diplomatic sources said Olmert will now offer a new draft plan in the immediate future.
The plan Olmert already presented was adapted from a detailed American proposal sent earlier this year to the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating delegations, diplomatic sources said.
The U.S. plan also called for peripheral eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem to become part of a future Palestinian state, but those sections of the plan seemed to have been placed on hold for now.
Olmert is considered a lame duck prime minister and according to polls has little standing with the Israeli population, but he has vowed to forge ahead with Israeli-Palestinian negotiations started at last November's U.S.-backed Annapolis summit, which seeks to create a Palestinian state by the end of the year.
Last week a top PA negotiator told WND Olmert has stated he plans to grant the Palestinians a state on paper before he steps down from office next month.
"Papers are very important. It puts limits on the new prime minister," said the PA negotiator, speaking to WND on condition of anonymity. "For example, the weak point of Israeli-Syrian negotiations are papers signed by former prime ministers that now must be abided during current negotiations.
"Olmert told us his goal is to reach an agreement on paper," the negotiator said.
He said the agreement will likely encompass understandings regarding the transfer of much of the West Bank to the Palestinians. He said he "hopes" the issue of Jerusalem is broached but that it might not be mentioned on paper beyond a declaration of agreement to negotiate further.