Palestinians deny leaked 'Jerusalem offer'

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.

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 - a total of 100,000.

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 the Palestinian leadership."

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

The current chief negotiator Saeb Erekat dismissed the TV report as "lies and half truths".

Mr Abbas told Egyptian newspaper editors in Cairo yesterday that he kept the Arab League updated on all details of the negotiations with Israel, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

"I don't know from where Al-Jazeera came with secret things," he was quoted as saying. "There is nothing we hide from our brothers, the Arabs."

The peace talks referred to in the documents went through 2008 but ended without agreement when Israel attacked Gaza to try to stop daily rocket barrages by Palestinian militants there.

The report quoted a document that said Israel informed Mr Abbas in advance of its plan to invade Gaza. Mr Abbas has denied that in the past.

Mr Erekat said the Jerusalem document was an Israeli proposal and he denied the report about a Palestinian offer to limit the return of refugees.

The Israeli prime minister at the time, Ehud Olmert, has said he offered the Palestinians a state in the Gaza Strip and about 95% of the West Bank, with territorial swaps to make up the difference, including a corridor to link the West Bank and Gaza.

In Jerusalem, he said, he suggested the same international arrangement outlined yesterday by Al-Jazeera for the holy site and division of the Arab and Jewish sections.

Mr Olmert said the land swap would be for territory along the length of the West Bank but would not include the sections were Israeli Arabs lived.

Al-Jazeera claimed it has 1,600 leaked documents from peace talks over the past decade. The Al-Jazeera programme yesterday, concentrating on Jerusalem, was the first of four this week. Others are set to cover refugees and other issues.