Israeli-Palestinian peace talks under Premier
Ehud Olmert had reached a point where decisions were required by the leaders of both sides, an Israeli former senior official said Tuesday, responding to leaked documents detailing the negotiations, DPA reported.
Aharon Abramovich, who was the director-general of the foreign ministry when during the peace talks between Olmert and the Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by President
Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel Radio the talks had been "in-depth, serious, and intensive."
He said the publication of the so-called "Palestine Papers" need not prevent future talks taking place between the parties.
The documents, released by the Qatari-based al-Jazeera broadcaster, purport to detail transcripts of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, notably in wake of the Annapolis peace summit.
The Annapolis negotiations ended in late September 2008, suspended as Israel headed for elections which ultimately saw Olmert replaced as premier by Benjamin Netanyahu in early 2009, and then abandoned as Israel launched a devastating attack on Islamist militias in Gaza at the end of the year.
Reporting on the documents Tuesday, Israeli media focused especially on the "missed opportunities" for a peace deal, with commentators and analysts pointing out how close the sides had supposedly been.
Much of the reporting also dealt with the so-called "napkin map" a map drawn up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on a napkin which detailed land swaps between the sides
According to the map, in a final deal some 56,000 Israeli settlers would leave their homes in the West Bank, while 413,000 would remain under Israeli sovereignty.
The map also included a proposal for a 6.5 per cent land swap between Israel and a future Palestinian state. In return for Israel annexing West Bank settlements, Palestinians would receive territory around Jenin, Gaza, and south of Hebron.
"We were closer than ever. It was a missed opportunity," the Yediot Ahronoth daily quoted "a source close to Olmert" as saying.
"A missed opportunity that is felt on the Palestinian side as well, which regrets that to this day," he said.
According to Nahum Barnea, Yediot's veteran analyst, the "Palestine Papers" did not reveal "anything new to the Israeli reader".
"The novelty, he said, lies not in the details, but in the overall picture ... There wasn't any bluff here, neither on the Palestinian side nor on the Israeli side ... The two parties were separated by a large gap, but anyone who claims the gap cannot be bridged is mistaken."
A similar view was taken by commentator Ben Caspit, of the rival Ma'ariv daily, who said that the documents published by al-Jazeera "show the enormity of the lost opportunity."
"The PA did not make huge concessions, but it did show flexibility. The Israeli side ... did not compromise on Israel's security interests, but it did display creativity. The gaps weren't closed, but they were reduced. There could have been another last-ditch, creative effort to reach an agreement."