Ehud Olmert 311.
(photo credit: Pool/Yediot Aharonot)
Former US president George W. Bush did not and could not have agreed to accept
100,000 Palestinian refugees as former prime minister Ehud Olmert claimed in a
speech over the weekend, former Bush administration official Elliott Abrams told
The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Abrams, who was deputy national security
adviser for global democracy strategy and held the Middle East portfolio on the
National Security Council, said Bush administration officials did believe that
if a peace deal was reached with the Palestinians, there would need to be
actions by many countries to address the refugee issue, both financially and by
offering to take some refugees.
But he said there was no commitment to
“President Bush did not, I am sure, promise or pledge to
take 100,000 Palestinian refugees,” Abrams said.
“The president knew, as everyone in the White
House knew, that no president has the power to make such a commitment. We have
immigration laws and they don’t allow that kind of move by a president. He would
have had to ask Congress to change our laws. Moreover, we would never have
committed to a specific number anyway, nor did Olmert ask us to or raise that
In a speech on Sunday sponsored by the Geneva Initiative at Tel
Aviv’s Eretz Israel Museum, Olmert outlined the offer he made the
at the end of his premiership, which included a contiguous Palestinian
transferring control over Jerusalem’s holy basin to the stewardship of
countries, and accepting thousands of Palestinian refugees into Israel
“The US would have been willing to accept 100,000
refugees,” Olmert said. “I believe that if the refugees, most of whom
are the second and third generation outside the territories, had had to
between coming back to Israel or going to the United States, one might
what they would choose.”
Olmert’s office responded to Abrams’s comments
by saying that Abrams was unaware of commitments made by other Bush
“Promises were indeed made on this issue by
very senior Bush administration officials who were involved in the
the negotiations with the Palestinians,” an official in Olmert’s office
said.Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.