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


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.