Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of Fatah and president of the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank, opposes a solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees that would "destroy Israel," The Times of Israel reported, citing sources who met with Abbas earlier this week.
"He told us that he does not support or want a solution to the issue of refugees that would destroy Israel," Ilai Alon from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya told the newspaper.
According to Alon's son, a business executive who also attended the meeting, Abbas called it "unreasonable" for Israel to absorb all Palestinian refugees, because it would "destroy" the country. "But he also said that we still need to find a solution to the issue of refugees."
However, an unnamed Palestinian official, who also was among the participants, detailed that Abbas said "drown" instead of "destroy." "He said that he does not want to drown Israel with refugees, but that we still need to find a solution to the issue of refugees."
Abbas also supported the deployment of American forces along the borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, adding that Israel-Palestine cooperation would make is possible to sidestep their presence.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) grants refugee status to the Palestinians who have fled the 1948 establishment of Israel and their descendants. A total of five million people are eligible for the UN program; some 1.5 million are living in the 58 recognized refugee camps in the neighboring countries.
Palestine demands "the right to return" for the refugees, but Israel argues that if it were to accept the move, it would jeopardize its Jewish majority.
On March 30, Palestinians kicked off mass rallies, dubbed the Great March of Return, insisting on the return of Palestinian refugees to the territories they claim were illegally seized by Israel after the 1948 war.