By Vic Rosenthal
Ehud Olmert has an interview in today’s Jerusalem Post. It’s a long interview, and quite interesting. For now I want to quote his response to the refugee issue in the Arab initiative, about which I wrote yesterday.
JP: Is the 2002 proposal, as it stands, something on which you could begin to talk?
EO: We have to define what we’re talking about. I’m talking about the Saudi initiative. I’m not talking necessarily about what they now call the Arab initiative as it was formulated in Beirut in 2002, because there are differences. The Saudis don’t speak at all about resolution 194 [on the refugees]. The Saudi initiative looks better in this respect than the Arab initiative. Not that I agree with the Saudi initiative in all of its aspects.
JP: Do you accept the Clinton parameters from 2000 on the refugees?
EO: No. I will not agree to accept any kind of Israeli responsibility for the refugees. Full stop. It’s a moral issue. It’s a moral issue of the highest standard. I don’t think that we should accept any kind of responsibility for the creation of this problem. Full stop.
JP: What role should or could we play in solving the refugee problem? What solution is acceptable? Would you rule out…?
EO: …Any refugee coming to Israel. Full stop. Out of the question.
JP: Not for family reunification?
EO: Are you talking about family reunification, or are you talking about a solution for the refugees? Refugees, no way. Family reunification we have now to some degree. Even now it’s becoming more of a problem than a solution. But this is not the solution to the refugee problem. And I’ll never accept a solution that is based on their return to Israel, any number.
JP: Our understanding of the Clinton parameters was that it involved a certain recognition by Israel, in principle, of a right to return, but that Israel would have the sovereign right to deny them a return. That was accepted by the Barak government. Is that acceptable to you?
In my opinion, the much-maligned Olmert has it exactly right. One of the primary components of the Arab initiative is its implication that Israel is the cause of the conflict, and of the misery of the refugees and their descendants, and must make amends to everyone concerned. This is not just a practical question that millions (or even thousands, to tell the truth) of hostile Arabs cannot be allowed into Israel to destroy it from within, but a question of historical fact which will define the parameters of any political agreements that Israel may make in the future.
We can’t allow the following facts to be forgotten or erased by historical revisionism:
- The refugees were created as a result of a war of aggression that was forced on Israel. They left for many reasons, but if the Arab nations had accepted partition rather than attacking Israel in 1948, there would be a Palestinian state and there would be no refugees.
- More Jews were kicked out of Arab nations during and following the 1948 war than Arabs left Israel.
- The idea that 4+ million descendants of 600,000 refugees, plus free-loaders to whom the UN has given refugee status, should have a right of return is unprecedented in any refugee situation.
- The misery of these people is entirely the result of the policies of the Arab nations who have prevented their resettlement and kept them on the UN dole for almost 60 years in order to use them as a human weapon against Israel.