For everyone who thinks that Israeli settlements are the reason for the lack of progress toward a ‘two-state solution’, here is an article from the official Palestinian Authority news agency:
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Senior Hamas and Fatah officials stated their objections on Sunday to what they said were US suggestions that Palestinians accept a land swap with Israel and give up the right of return.
The officials said that the US is pushing for a final status agreement with Israel that does not include the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and maintains so-called Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank.
In other words, they object to Jews living in the area that was occupied by Jordan from 1948-67 — even if an equivalent amount of land from Israel is ceded to the Palestinians in return — while insisting upon the right of millions of descendants of Arab refugees to move into Israel.
The article continues,
“The main challenge for this administration is to stop the settlements and land confiscation, particularly canceling the Israeli decision to confiscate 139,00 [sic] dunums of land along the Dead Sea shores and to stop the settlement plans in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.”
I discussed the Sheikh Jarrah apartment building yesterday. The Dead Sea land is area that has been exposed by the shrinkage of the sea and is not suitable for construction, and which in any event would be included in Palestinian areas in the event of an agreement. In the grand scheme of things, one could not find issues less significant or easier to settle if an actual peace deal were at hand.
But no, these are really the main obstacles, the Palestinians say. Oh yes, and a few other little things:
If the US takes these “basic steps,” it could lead to “real peace,” [Senior Fatah official Hatem Abdul Qader] said. He also said that Palestinians refugees cannot give up the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel, basing their claim on UN Resolution 194. “Going around [Resolution 194] will not lead to real peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”
Meanwhile Hamas senior official Salah Bardawil said that “the issue of land swap was proposed since the Camp David negotiations … President Yasser Arafat rejected this at the time then and paid his life as a price for this rejection.” [Here we encounter the myth that Arafat was murdered by Israel, although it is more likely that he died of AIDS. But this is a subject for another post — ed]
Bardawil also said “We cannot accept anything that is proposed by the Americans regarding this issue.” He said “all Palestinian factions” believe that a resolution to the conflict should be based on an Israeli withdrawal from the land it occupied in 1967 (the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem), the creation of a Palestinian state, and the realization of the right of return.
Indeed they do. But I think that they are jumping the gun, misreading both Israel’s instinct of self-preservation and the degree to which the US is tilting in the Arab direction.
It has always been part of the Israeli bottom line that there can be no ‘return’ of refugees. At least so far, even the Obama administration seems to agree.
Regarding the settlement blocs, another bottom line has been defensible borders, as called for by UN Resolution 242. That means that the pre-1967 lines are not sacrosanct and that there can and must be adjustments. Again, this has been the American position too.
Finally we have the question of Israel’s rights in East Jerusalem. Here the Americans are not so solidly on Israel’s side, but the vast majority of Israelis support PM Netanyahu’s position. Israel won’t budge here either.
The Arabs can be clever negotiators and good strategists, but this time I think they allowed their lust for blood to cloud their judgment, and have got themselves in a corner.
Unless of course the US takes a far more anti-Israel turn than I expect.