Posted by: Lister | June 2, 2007

Right of Return

Uri Avnery has an article on the refugee problem. He mentions a solution I’ve not heard before. A kind of quota system.

Once, in a public meeting of Gush Shalom, a Palestinian representative said: “Today, the Arab minority constitutes 20% of Israel’s citizens. So let us agree that for every 80 new Jewish immigrants coming to the country, 20 Palestinian refugees will be allowed to return. In such a way, the present proportion would be maintained.” The public reacted enthusiastically.

The problem is one of demographics. Israel is defined as a state that is majority Jewish. Giving up that majority is the end of the state. (In the minds of most Israelis, anyway, according to Avnery).

The Arab insistence on a right to return has thus been used as a sticking point in all negotiations.

NOW, A REVOLUTIONARY development has taken place. The Arab League has offered Israel a peace plan: all 22 Arab states would recognize Israel and establish diplomatic and economic relations with it, in return for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The offer did not ignore the refugee problem. It mentioned UN resolution 194, but added a qualification of fundamental importance: that the solution would be reached “by agreement” between the two parties. In other words: Israel would have the right of veto over refugees returning to Israeli territory.

This put the Israeli government in a difficult position. If the Israeli public understood that the entire Arab world was offering a comprehensive peace agreement without the actual realization of the Right of Return, they might accept it gladly. Therefore, everything was done to obscure the decisive word. The guided (and misguided) Israeli media emphasized the plan’s mention of Resolution 194 and played down the talk of an “agreed upon” solution.

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