Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday agreed to grant permanent visas to some 10,000 foreign Arabs who were living illegally in the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat announced the decision to reporters after Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met in Jerusalem, their first direct talks since last month's terrorist massacre of eight Jewish Bible students in the Israeli capital.
Twelve thousand Arab immigrants to Judea and Samaria (the so-called "West Bank") have already received permanent resident status over the past decade as a result of routine requests to the Israeli authorities.
An estimated 54,000 more foreign Arabs are currently living the area, waiting their turn to be transformed into "Palestinians."
Olmert and Abbas agreed to accelerate talks leading to the birth of "Palestine" by meeting every two weeks. Both men expressed optimism that a final status peace agreement can still be reached by the end of the year, in line with US President George W. Bush's wishes.
Want more news from Israel?
Click Here to sign up for our FREE daily email updates