Recently PM Olmert refused to consider any peace agreement that granted a “right of return” to Israel — either actual or symbolic — for Palestinian refugees or their descendants (see “Olmert has it exactly right“). Alan Dershowitz suggests a less drastic position:
Having concluded that Olmert was absolutely right as a matter of principle, he may have been wrong as a matter of tactics. The Palestinian narrative, whether factually correct or incorrect, is a reality in the minds of most Palestinians. Earlier Israeli Prime Ministers recognized that, and were prepared to compromise principle for a pragmatic peace. They indicated a willingness to accept some symbolic right of return coupled with compensation.
Dershowitz is wrong. Granting a ‘symbolic’ right of return (what is a “symbolic right”, anyway?) means taking responsibility for the refugee situation. It means, therefore, admitting to having caused it by deliberate ethnic cleansing or at least by being responsible for the war in which the refugees were created. It means giving up the position that Israel was founded in justice.
Why should the ‘right’ be only symbolic if the Arab story is accepted by everyone, including Israel? How long would it stay symbolic then? What argument could Israel give for it to remain only symbolic? What argument could Israel give for (Jewish) aliyah?
The fact is that Israel’s right to exist is grounded in the rightness of its historical narrative. Take that away — as the pro-Arab propagandists are trying to do — and there is no reason for there to be such a state, which, after all, nobody else in the region wants.