Palestinians compromised on refugees: Al-Jazeera

Palestinian negotiators accepted Israel’s proposal at the start of 2009 peace talks that it would only take in a fraction of the 1948 refugees, Al-Jazeera said Monday, citing leaked documents.

“On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take five million (the total estimated number of refugees), or indeed one million — that would mean the end of Israel,” Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is quoted as saying at a March 24, 2009 meeting.

The documents showed then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert had initially proposed only accepting 5,000 Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war that led to the creation of the state of Israel, over five years.

But Abbas, a 1948 refugee himself, rejected the offer as “not acceptable.”

Yet during a June 16 meeting that same year, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said Olmert “accepted 1,000 refugees annually for the next 10 years,” for a total of 10,000.

According to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, with which Al-Jazeera is “exclusively sharing” the 1,600 secret files, Palestinian officials accepted the 10,000 figure set by Israel.