On the eve of the meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asserted that the two had already discussed the entry of Palestinian refugees into Israel.
“We are discussing the entry of refugees into the territory of the State of Israel,” said Mr. Abbas in an interview to Al-Arabiya. “I have been trying to agree with Israel about the number of Palestinian refugees who will be permitted to return to the area of the State of Israel.”
The Prime Minister’s Office yesterday did not deny that talks were being held on the issue of the return of refugees, but stressed that it was Israel’s position that if a Palestinian state were established, refugees would be permitted to go only there. “That issue was made clear to the PA chairman in meetings with senior U.S. administration officials as well,” said Prime Minister’s Office officials, and underscored that “the gaps are large and no agreement have been reached on any issue yet.”
In the interview, Mr. Abbas shed light on the state of the political negotiations with respect to other issues as well, including the future borders of the Palestinian state. He said that the Israelis – to wit, Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who heads the Israeli negotiating team – have accepted his demands with respect to borders on the basis of the 1967 lines, with minor revisions. He said that certain land swaps might be considered in which areas of the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley would be turned over to Palestinian control in exchange for Palestinian concessions around Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
The question remains, however, whether the Israeli prime minister and Israeli foreign minister will be able to “sell” such a proposition to the Israeli Knesset Parliament, let alone the Israeli government itself.
This article appeared on the September 2nd issue of the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.TheBulletin.us