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Olmert: U.S. Offered to Absorb 100,000 Palestinians

Olmert: U.S. Offered to Absorb 100,000 Palestinians

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush offered to absorb 100,000 Palestinian refugees if Israel and the Palestinians reached a peace deal, Ehud Olmert said.

The former Israeli prime minister, speaking to the Geneva Initiative conference in Tel Aviv Sunday night, said that Israel had agreed to absorb a symbolic amount of Palestinian refugees, a number he said to be fewer than 20,000.

Olmert said he had offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during negotiations in 2008 resolution of the refugee problem in line with the Arab Leaguepeace plan.

"If we had reached an agreement, it would have changed the map of the world and the entire Middle East. We are not to blame. If there is no agreement, it’s because the Palestinian side was not prepared to take the extra step that we made," Olmert said.

Olmert said that any resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be based on the 1967 borders. He said the offer he made to Abbas also included giving control over Jerusalem’s "holy basin," which includes the Old City, to a grouping of five countries.

Olmert said that the Obama administration is not hostile against Israel. "There is no difference between Bush’s positions and Obama’s positions," he asserted.

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