Palestinians deny compromise offer in peace talks with Israel

Palestinian negotiators denied offering a compromise over two of the toughest issues, Jerusalem and refugees, during peace talks with Israel in 2008.

The compromise claims were made by TV channel Al-Jazeera yesterday, quoting from documents it said came from the talks.

But Palestinian negotiators moved quickly to deny the report, saying parts of the documents were fabricated. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he had kept Arab countries fully briefed on the negotiations with Israel.

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According to Al-Jazeera, the Palestinians offered to let Israel keep all but one of the Jewish enclaves built in east Jerusalem after capturing it in the 1967 war. About 200,000 Israelis live there now.

In return, according to the quoted documents, the Palestinians wanted Israeli land, including a section close to the West Bank-Israel line where many of Israel's minority Arab citizens live.

They also proposed international control of the key Jerusalem holy site as a temporary measure. The Palestinians, Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan would administer the site where the Al Aqsa Mosque compound sits atop the ruins of the biblical Jewish temples, until Israel and the Palestinians could work out a permanent arrangement.

On the issue of refugees, the documents said the Palestinians agreed that Israel would take in 10,000 refugees a year for 10 years.

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The Palestinians have insisted that all refugees from the 1948-49 war and their descendants - several million people - have the right to return to Israel. The Israelis have always rejected that as a threat to the Jewish character of their state.

The chief Palestinian negotiator in the 2008 talks, Ahmed Qureia, said "many parts of the documents were fabricated, as part of the incitement against the Palestinian Authority and leadership".

He denied making an offer about the Jewish enclaves in east Jerusalem, saying Israel refused to discuss the issue.

Inquiry clears flotilla commandos

An ISRAELI panel cleared the country's military and government of any wrongdoing during last May's deadly raid on a Gaza-bound international flotilla.

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The report said the armed defence of Israel's blockade of the Hamas-ruled coastal strip was justified – but the finding is unlikely to repair the damage to Israel's standing.

Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed as Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships in the flotilla.