Did PA agree to give up on right of return? Documents leaked
to the al-Jazeera network and published Monday night on the Guardian website reveal that chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in 2008 that then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
had agreed to take in 1,000 refugees annually, for 10 years.
In February 2009, Erekat told US special envoy George Mitchell, "On refugees, the deal is there." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,
was recorded as saying that "on numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel
to take five million, or indeed one million."
Documents published Sunday night revealed that Olmert suggested to the Palestinian Authority that Israel would take in 1,000 refugees every year, for five year, on a "humanitarian" basis, but according to memos published Monday night, the PA demanded double that number and Israel may have accepted. The documents do not point to another offer made later on.
Last year, however, Erekat handed European diplomats documents showing that the PA had expressed its willingness to accept Israel's offer to take in 15,000 refugees. Olmert noted that the number presented to the PA president was lower than 25,000.
A PA document from 2007 says the fundamental principle is the return of 100,000 refugees.
Abbas was recorded arguing in a meeting with the Palestinian negotiation team, "On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million. That would mean the end of Israel."
According to Olmert's proposal, which was presented to the Palestinians on August 31, 2008 and published Sunday, the prime minister agreed that Israel would recognize the Palestinian refugees' suffering, but would not take responsibility for it. At the same time, he demanded that the agreement would mention the Israeli suffering.
The offer does not discuss the amount of compensation, but rules that Israel would not claim responsibility for the refugees turning into refugees and that their property would not be returned to them.
Roi Kais contributed to this report