Palestinian officials did not return calls seeking comment.
But Abbas’s remarks broadly reflect the official Palestinian position of reaching an agreement where refugees will receive compensation while a smaller amount would be allowed back. Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas movement, alongside many other Palestinians, said Abbas’ remarks suggested millions of refugees and their descendants would not return to the places they fled in wars with Israel.
“It is not possible for any person, regardless of who he is ... to give up a hand’s width of this Palestinian land, or to give up the right of return to our homes from which we were forced out,” Gaza’s Hamas ruler Ismail Haniyeh said.
The fate of refugees who fled, or were forced to flee their homes in the wake of Israel’s creation in 1948 is on one of the most emotional issues at the heart of Israel-Palestinian conflict. The refugee issue has been a big obstacle in peace talks. Israel says their entry would be demographic suicide and expects refugees to be taken in by a future Palestinian state. Israel has absorbed large amounts of Jewish refugees over the decades including those that fled from Arab countries in 1948 and 1967.
Nimer Hammad, an adviser to the Palestinian president said Abbas was being “realistic.
He knows he can’t bring back five-and-a-half million Palestinian refugees to Israel,” Hammad said. During his interview, Abbas vowed to prevent another violent Palestinian uprising, or Intifada, like that of last decade.