Oslo Mark II?

In an attempt to bolster the regime of Fatah leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel and the US have proposed a plan to "kick start" the "peace" process by rehashing the Olso Accords and the "Road Map to Peace".

On July 16, US President George Bush announced the convening of an international peace conference later this year. However, Bush made it clear that all concessions in the so-called peace process would come from the Palestinians, not Israel. Both Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have refused to set a deadline for final status discussions with Palestinians on issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements and security. According to a July 20 report by Ha'aretz journalists Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner, "the demands Bush presented to Israel were mild, almost imperceptible, compared to the challenge he gave the Palestinians".

On July 25, Olmert announced in the lead-up to the conference that Israel will seek to negotiate an "agreement of principles" with Abbas. As with the international peace conference, the agreement will seek to push permanent status issues such as refugees, borders and Jerusalem to the backburner. Instead, the negotiations would revolve around the characteristics of the Palestinian state, its official institutions, its economy and the custom arrangements it would have with Israel.

Ha'aretz noted on July 25 that in Olmert's view, "this is not the time to deal with the minute details of the agreement, because it will be very difficult to reach agreement on final status issues, such as borders, Jerusalem and the refugees". Olmert, like Bush, stressed that "no timetable has been set for the negotiations".

Olmert's plan, like the failed Oslo Accords and the Road Map, proposes a nominal exchange of land for peace. However, the larger Israeli "settlement" blocs in the West Bank will not be dismantled and will remain under Israeli control. Israel would also not withdraw from East Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives or the Old City and its environs. It would only withdraw from Arab neighbourhoods not considered part of the historical city.

Ha'aretz reported that Olmert's plan includes "connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip through a tunnel in order to offer the Palestinians territorial contiguity, prevent friction between Israelis and Palestinians, and preserve security". However, Israel will demand compensation for digging the tunnel in its territory.

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