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Olmert ‘Gesture’ Opens Door to 'Right of Return' for Arabs

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has broken the policy rejecting the Arab demand for the “right of return” of foreign descendants of 1948 Arab residents.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 7/30/2007, 1:26 PM

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s latest “good will gesture” to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has smashed Israel's long-standing policy rejecting the “right of return” for the generations of  descendants of Arabs who fled Israel during the 1948 War of Independence.

Olmert decided to allow the immigration into Judea and Samaria of 41 Iraqi descendants of such Arabs who lived in British Mandatory Palestine. All have claimed to have family members living in the PA-controlled areas.

Government officials assured reporters that each of the would-be Arab immigrants would undergo a thorough security check before entering the Jewish State.  Officials added that a smaller group of Iraqis who asked to be allowed to join family members living in Gaza was rejected.

Arab countries have long demanded that Israel absorb more than five million Arabs from foreign countries who claim to be descendants of the approximately half a million Arabs who fled during the 1948 war in Israel, when the surrounding Arab countries tried to destroy the nascent Jewish state.

The Arab nations who united to attack Israel encouraged those Arabs to leave, explaining they could return after the expected annihilation of the new state.

Every previous government has rejected the Arab "right of return" demand.