The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week approved the entry of 41 Iraqi Arabs of “Palestinian” origin into Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). The immigrants will be reunited with family there and made full citizens of the Palestinian Authority.
The move was seen as the latest “goodwill gesture” by Olmert toward the Palestinian government of newly-installed Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and his benefactor, Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
But many within Israel warned that the gesture had set a dangerous precedent all but shattering Israel's long-standing opposition to granting a “right of return” to some five million people descended from Arabs who fled the Land of Israel at the behest of their leaders during the 1948 Israeli-Arab war.
Abbas and the Palestinians insist that the resettlement of these so-called “refugees” inside present-day Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories is a necessary component of any final status agreement.
Israel argues that doing so would demographically destroy the Jewish state.
Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported on Tuesday that Olmert and Abbas have been holding secret final status negotiations.
The talks are said to be focused on the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, final borders, the future status of Jerusalem and the aforementioned Palestinian “right of return.” Previous Israeli leaders had refused to discuss such matters until the Palestinians began fulfilling their sole primary peace commitment by eliminating the threat of anti-Jewish Palestinian terrorism.