Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently admitted on Israeli TV that he rejected an offer in 2008 from then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert which included Israel’s near-total withdrawal from the West Bank in addition to giving up control over Jerusalem.
Following the interview on Channel 10, the Associated Press covered Abbas’ rejection of what they termed a “potentially history-altering” peace proposal, citing Abbas’ reason that he “was not allowed to study the map.”
Apparently Abbas had been handed the map by Olmert who demanded that he initial it. In the interview Abbas said he refused with the claim that he isn’t an expert on maps. “I rejected it out of hand,” he said. Abbas never met Olmert again.
The story was never reported in mainstream media at the time. But as it turns out, it wasn’t because journalists weren’t aware of it. In a stunning disclosure in Tablet Magazine, former journalist for the Associated Press, Mark Lavie, admits that he knew about the story back in 2009 but that his bureau chief at the AP had “banned [him] from writing about it.”
In May of 2013 the Tower.org obtained a copy of a map that Abbas drew from memory immediately following his meeting with Olmert. It also contained detailed descriptions of Olmert’s offer to Abbas, which included giving Palestinians control of 93.7 per cent of the West Bank in addition to creating a corridor connecting the area to Gaza. The proposal further ceded Israeli control of the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount.
Apart from one news website in Hebrew, no one else picked up on the Tower’s dramatic scoop. When Lavie himself found out about the map back in 2009, he hurried to tell his bosses at AP but his scoop was shot down immediately. According to Lavie’s estimation, “media bias killed” the story.
Today, Lavie asserts, journalism requires choosing sides. The media’s compunction is to maintain the portrayal of Palestinians as “helpless victims, to pillory the Israelis as the cruel oppressors. Stories that didn’t fit that framework had a hard time seeing the light of day. Even a peace offer.
So, naturally, despite the fact that Israel offered the Palestinians a state twice—in 2000 and 2008—the world saw Israel as the intransigent side,” writes Lavie.
Lavie credits his former employers at AP for finally writing up the story six years later following Abbas’ admission on TV that he rejected Israel’s generous peace offer. But he describes it as temporary victory. “Again, this is temporary, because the underlying bias, the framing of the conflict—strong, cruel Israel against weak, victimized Palestinians—has not changed.”