WASHINGTON (JTA) — Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 made advances in peace talks but could not agree on settlements and refugees.
The sides agreed on sharing Jerusalem’s Old City and on the security conditions for a Palestinian state, Olmert, the former Israeli prime minister, and Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, both told The New York Times in interviews. They also were close to an agreement on borders and refugees.
The talks fell apart in late 2008 after it became clear that Olmert’s leadership was on the rocks. Olmert was replaced as prime minister in March 2009.
During the talks, both sides agreed to keep the "Holy Basin" in Jerusalem in a multinational trust, and that the Palestinian state should be demilitarized.
There was agreement on allowing a limited number of Palestinian refugees to return, but broad gaps on the actual number.
The Palestinians also were steadfast in their objection to Israel retaining two major settlements, Maaleh Adumim and Ariel.
Both leaders said U.S. bridging proposals might have overcome the differences. The Bush administration was reluctant to play such a proactive role in the process.