Olmert says U.S. agreed to accept refugees

Sept. 20, 2010 at 10:43 AM
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JERUSALEM, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Former U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to grant 100,000 Palestinian refugees American citizenship, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said.

Speaking at a conference in Tel Aviv, the former Israeli prime minister said the Bush administration agreed to absorb the refugees should Israel reach a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israeli media said Monday.

Olmert told conference attendants Sunday night that during negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008, he offered a solution to the refugee problem and received guarantees from the Bush administration that the United States would contribute to the refugee problem in the framework of international compensation, the Hebrew daily Haaretz said Monday.

Washington agreed to absorb and give citizenship to 100,000 refugees, while Israel would accept less than 20,000, the newspaper said.

An end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would be announced, and the Palestinians would issue a public statement saying they have no more demands from Israel, Ynetnews.com said.

"I think that if the refugees -- many of whom are already second or third generation [Palestinians] living outside of the territories -- were given a choice between returning to Israel or the United States, we could guess what they would choose," the paper quoted Olmert saying.

The former Israeli prime minister said that at the Annapolis summit in 2007 he was the first Israeli prime minister to publicly empathize with the Palestinian suffering.

Every government in Israel must recognize and accept that peace negotiations would be based on the establishment of a Palestinian state on 1967 borders and would include a land exchange, the paper quoted him saying.

"If we had reached an agreement, it would have changed the map of the world and the entire Middle East," Olmert said.

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