By Vic Rosenthal
Israeli Foreign Minister Livni “told the Palestinian daily Al Ayamm in an interview published Thursday morning that ‘Israel could not accept the Arab peace initiative in its current format.'” (Jerusalem Post).
The main problem is the demand for a right of return to Israel for the 5 million (or whatever is the latest number) descendants of the 1948 Palestinian refugees. Before discussing this further, a little background:
Over the years, Israel has been battered diplomatically and militarily to make concessions to the Palestinians, embodied first as the Fatah-dominated PLO and then as the official PA. Although Israel currently refuses to talk to the Hamas-dominated unity government, it’s likely that this will change as the US and other powers find a way to pretend that their conditions for legitimacy have been met.
During this time, as a result of pressure from the US and wishful thinking, Israel moved from treating the PLO as an outlaw terrorist organization whose members needed to be arrested or killed, to the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, which everyone expects to some day become the government of a Palestinian state.
This movement was supposedly conditioned on the PLO’s agreement to change its charter to accept Israel’s right to exist and to give up the “military struggle”. Despite many assurances from Yasser Arafat and more recently Mahmoud Abbas, this was never done, the PLO/Fatah is still committed to the destruction of Israel, and the associated Al-Aqsa brigades still carry out terrorist attacks.
Now that the PA is dominated by Hamas, which does not even pay lip service to Israel’s right to exist, the situation is worse. Nevertheless, the inexorable progress toward a Palestinian state in the territories continues.
It’s interesting that despite Israel’s movement, there has been absolutely no movement on the part of the Palestinians. In particular, the demand for a right of return has never been softened — even verbally and even by the ‘moderate’ Abbas.
Livni is to be praised for making it clear that Israel considers this demand unjustifiable and unacceptable.
There has never been a refugee situation which has persisted for almost sixty years, in which the descendants of the original refugees still maintain refugee status, remain on the international dole, and have a special agency (UNRWA) which exists only to maintain their status and not to resettle them.
A fair and equitable settlement for these refugees would include an understanding that any compensation owed the original 600,000 Palestinian refugees is balanced by that which should have been paid to the 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, long since resettled in Israel and the West.
Such a settlement should provide for the resettlement of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the new Palestinian state as well as in various Arab countries, similarly to the way the Jewish refugees were treated.
There is no justification for the insistence that Israel bear responsibility for the condition of these unfortunate victims of Arab rejectionism, and Israel must not allow her position on this issue to weaken.