The first clause of the UN High Commission for Refugees Convention for the Status of Refugees defines a refugee thus:

A person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country or to return there for fear of persecution.

That convention also explicitly excludes the Palestinians from being considered as falling under the jurisdiction of the Convention because they fall under the care and responsibility of UNWRA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) which was founded in December, 1949. Here is UNWRA’s definition of a refugee under their mandate:

Under UNRWA’s operational definition, Palestine refugees are persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. UNRWA’s services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. UNRWA’s definition of a refugee also covers the descendants of persons who became refugees in 1948. The number of registered Palestine refugees has subsequently grown from 914,000 in 1950 to more than four million in 2002, and continues to rise due to natural population growth.

The two things that jump out immediately are:

1. That UNHCR requires that a country from which a refugee comes be their country of nationality or habitual residence, while UNWRA minimizes the standard to people who had been resident in Palestine – a territory, not a country, under a British Mandatory government mandated by the international community to provide a homeland to the Jewish nation on their historic land – for merely two years prior to the War of 1948.

2. That UNHCR does not provide refugee status to the descendants of refugees, while UNWRA does.

Note that UNWRA is unique in that it is the only organization of its kind in the world. Virtually all other refugees who are not Palestinian fall under UNHCR’s authority. The latter half of the 20th Century has seen over 100 million refugees. Most have been resettled. Needless to say, the Palestinian have not.

Now, it’s not as if UNWRA isn’t aware of the bad rap. In fact, they have a full webpage dedicated to countering bad raps. They had to write this stuff after the Wiesenthal Center submitted a complaint against UNWRA. Here’s some of their lovely spinning:

UNRWA and the UNHCR are both UN agencies mandated by the international community to do specific jobs for refugee populations. UNRWA deals specifically with Palestine refugees and their unique political situation. One reason for the distinction is that in the main the UNHCR is mandated to offer refugees three options, namely local integration and resettlement in third countries or return to their home country – options which must be accepted voluntarily by refugees under UNHCR’s care. These are not feasible for Palestine refugees as the first two options are unacceptable to the refugees and their host countries and the third is rejected by Israel. Given this context, the international community, through the General Assembly of the United Nations, requires UNRWA to continue to provide humanitarian assistance pending a political solution.

In other words, we do good and somehow the Palestinians are different, so leave us alone. The UN and even Israel have bought into this and have allowed UNWRA to run rampant. Every once in a while, some Israeli official will criticize UNWRA publicly, but the organization typically uses the media to fight back and has not slowed their work by any measure.

I mention all this because on May 26, Evelyn Gordon wrote an interesting opinion piece for the J Post, called “Why not say yes to the ‘right of return’.” Her thesis is that Israel has allowed this international chicanery of enabling the Palestinians to fall under different refugee rules than any other group, to affect it in very negative ways. Essentially, Gordon suggests, the Palestinians have gained both traction and substance in their ongoing debate and demands from the Israelis. It has become commonplace and natural for them to demand a “right of return.” In fact, if one reads their dream peace scenarios, the Palestinians always list UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which does call for a right of return of refugees.

194 is interesting because it does provide a clause that allows for compensation to replace return. However, the choice is apparently that of the refugee. We have seen this clause appear both in the Geneva Accords that Beilin hammered out with the Palestinians, and in the Saudi-sponsored peace plan that the Arab League recently resubmitted. Also interesting is that as a General Assembly bill, 194 has no weight in international law, as do Security Council resolutions (such as UNSCR 242)

For Israel, accepting 194 today, is anathema. They did accept it in 1948, but the Arabs rejected it at that time. Now the Arabs see its advantages. The advantages are threefold: it provides leverage in negotiation; it makes Israel look intransingent with respect to achieving a “just” peace; it might actually enable “return” and destruction of a Jewish state by democratic means. The reason, of course, is that if you count 4.2 million “refugees” just in the Territories, not including millions more in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, then “return” is actually a demographic timebomb set to destroy a Jewish majority in the Jewish state.

Gordon posits that by permitting the Palestinians, in conjunction with the UN under the auspices of UNWRA, to count their descendants as refugees – in direct contrast to EVERY other refugee group in the world who function under the auspices of UNHCR – the Israelis are losing the propaganda and the negotiating wars to the Palestinians. The Palestinians now have leverage, pure and simple.

However, there are only about 200,000 Palestinians who fall under UNHCR refugee guidelines. Obviously, this is a much friendlier number to Israel, and has the added advantage that it falls in line with the UN’s own codes about refugees. So if Israel were to change the rules in some way: demand the closure of UNWRA; or negotiate that only UNHCR standards apply to Palestinian refugees, then everything would change. Suddenly Israel could actually accept the so-called “right of return” without losing points in negotiations, and in fact probably gaining points in public opinion and debates.

It’s a simple but effective suggestion. Sure, accept the “right of return,” but only if UNHCR rules apply to the Palestinians.

Oh, did I mention that UNWRA sucks donkey balls?

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  • What is interesting is that many Jews meet the UNRWA “refugee” definition because they were expelled from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza in 1948 (Other Jewish refugees from Arab lands do not count, an interesting bias given that the conflict was pan-Arab). Somehow, I don’t think ANY Jews ever received UNRWA assistance. This is so n part due to UN biases, and in part due to Jewish interest in taking care of displaced Jews (there was no comparable Arab self-help). Even so, I think it is important to note that the definition entitles atleast some Jewish refugees to benefits, but that UN implementation has provided benefits solely to Arab refugees. It demonstrates that even when the law is neutral between Arabs and Jews, the UN will implement in favor of Arabs.

  • Hi, T_M
    Not that I’m an expert or anything, but I found Gordon’s article quite naive. I very much doubt that any Israeli (or Arab, for that matter) politician ignores the special status of Palestinian “refugees” and the UNRWA thing (Israel used to give money to UNRWA).
    Why does Gordon think that using the normal definition of “refugee” and then accepting the right of return of “all refugees” would be more acceptable (to the Palestinians or the UN) than simply refusing the current demands?
    If I remember correctly, Barak did propose the return of 100 or 200 thousand refugees, and of course it wasn’t acceptable. If it boils down to the same numbers, I don’t see that a different definition of refugee would help things.

  • Sorry for commenting twice…

    “Suddenly Israel could actually accept the so-called “right of return” without losing points in negotiations, and in fact probably gaining points in public opinion and debates.”
    But the problem of Arab countries not granting citizenship to Palestinians has been pointed out many times. Though it’s certainly a reasonable point, it doesn’t help: Arabs keep on refusing to grant citizenship and public opinion and media are still sympathetic to the Palestinians.

  • Yes, Yisrael, you are of course right. All the Jews who lived in East Jerusalem and any part of the West Bank were evicted by the Arabs and they and their descendants qualify as refugees. Of course, all of the Arab Jews who had to flee their countries also count as refugees, but they would have fallen under UNHCR jurisdiction had Israel not absorbed them as it did.

  • Rafael,

    On the contrary, this is a very elegant solution to the problem. Who cares what the Palestinians want in this case? They will continue to demand and fight anyway, that is clear to all.

    However, this idea offers a solution that falls squarely under international law, removes the hypocrisy of both the UN and the Palestinians with regard to their status as refugees (why is a Palestinian who was born in Jordan and lives there now considered a refugee? Why is a Palestinian born in Nablus, who has lived there his entire life, considered a refugee?), and best of all, by conforming to internatinal standards on refugees removes the most obstinate obstacle standing before Israel.

    Imagine the weakness that develops in the Palestinian negotiating position when Israel accepts the so-called “right of return” but specifies that it must conform to UNHCR standards of refugees. What are they going to say? No, we’re unique refugees? No, those laws don’t apply to us just to everybody else? Good luck to them.

  • Middleman, I’d think that if Israel concedes a normative ‘right of return’ on any legal or moral basis, or for any set of numbers of ‘returnees’ (and what is their status once they ‘return’?), it legitmates the notion of a binational state on the territory of Israel-Palestine. Are you a proponent of such an approach?

    I admire the diligence of your post, but parsing it

  • This is a valuable thread… link… link…. link… My family lives in the west bank. They’ve been abroad but they’re all headed back now. So, right of arabs to return, BIG YES. I have met “Palestinian” arabs, and they’re not palestinian. They maybe met one from their mother’s uncle’s side of the family, but that’s it. I say let the real palestinians come back. We already have more than a million of them, and for the most part they are very nice people. Chaval that they should live as second class citizens in some random arab theocracy. I say take those 200K REAL refugees and bring them back to haifa, back to tel aviv, and then we can have real peace, and none of this phoney refugee business.

    p.s. I’m Israel advocacy chair at the University of Ottawa & Carelton U so I’m thinking of setting up a hasbarah page. Can i statically link to this page using the “ slash qstn p equal eleven thirtynine”? thx

    p.p.s. UNWRA sucks donkey balls… nah, select a larger mamal… matches the UNWRA big mouth. A Soay Sheep will do the job. See testicle size study. rofl

  • Tom: You’re right. They will never stop asking for more. I remember chevron. Still, I hope for good things in the future. So sad how abbas still hasn’t come out against terrorism. I guess that’s what happens when you inherit a terrorist pseudostate. Funny how they ask but they don’t offer anything in return. Remember the guns rabin gave them? I keep seeing them in terrorist media watch vidios. I guess this is just our lot in life: fight for peace and then fight to realize that we’re in a war, and then negotiate for peace, and then back again. Depressing. I think egypt should offer the PA some land. They cause the colapse of the partition, so they should also contribute to a palestinian state. Jordan too!

  • oh and I’m not against rabin… his heart was in the right place. I’m just saying we keep getting monkeyed.

  • Tom, there already is a binational state in Israel. 1 million of its citizens are non-Jews, mostly Arab non-Jews and primarily Muslims. They share the same civic rights as all Israelis. So the “returnees” will simply impact the number of Arabs within Israel. However, as Gordon points out, these folks are past child bearing age, for the most part, so it’s not as if you are causing a significant bump in non-Jewish population over an extended period.

    I don’t think that Israel abdicates any moral or legal standing by accepting it, although I would love to hear more from an attorney specializing in international law. Legally, if anything, we are simply adhering to the UN’s own perspective on refugees and their UNHCR Convention (to which Israel is signatory, by the way). Morally, I believe that Israel would be taking the higher ground by enabling these people who left to return. I doubt all of them would return anyway, since most of those homes no longer exist, and also because they would have to abandon families and ties to places where they’ve been living for 55 years. So if Israel says, “It’s not our fault this war began, but in the name of peace we offer this compromise,” it is putting itself on solid ground from an ethical point of view.

    What were you about to write in the sentence that was cut off? Is my post unclear?

  • Middleman– thanks for the response. Your post is quite provocative, and i enjoyed reading it. And i admire your fidelity to that amorphous, shifty set of concepts known as international law.

    Here’s an additional thought: you describe the ‘right of return’ as a Palestinian bargaining chip. Isn’t it equally an Israeli one? The Israelis exchange their assent to a P state for relinquishment of the ‘right of return.’ Under this approach, the Israelis acknowledge the existence of such a right, but view it as having been waived.

    Once such a state is established, there will be a strong irridentist movement in Palestinian politics for years to come. How to deal with it? Deprive it of moral legitimacy through this sort of grand bargain. But in the meantime, stick with the two-state approach, which means, inter alia: stay out of our state, and do what you can to hasten the founding of your own.

  • The reason the “palestinians” are still “refugees” is obvious: without the “refugees” no one would give a rat’s ass about “palestine”. The palestinians are the Arabs’ most important, and only effective, weapon against Israel. They must remain “refugees” for strategic reasons.

    The Arab objective has always been the destruction of Israel. The Arabs cannot defeat Israel militarily, so they delberately keep the palestinians as stateless “refugees” so that 1)they can keep the eyes of the world focused on the “injustice” of the creation of Israel, which supposedly resulted in the “disposssession” of the “palestinian nation”; 2)create situations designed to maximize palestinian suffering so as to generate maximum sympathy for their so-called plight in the eys of well-meaning, but misguided Western liberals, which translates into anti-Israel political pressure, and 3)maintain a popuation of hate-filled, violent people who will be willing to murder Jews, thus reinforcing the impression of palestinian desperation in the eyes of the world, with the concomitant pressure on Israel to “do something about the poor palestinian refugees”.

    This is why the palestinian “refugee problem” will never be “solved”. Without the “refugees”, the Arab fight against Israel would be seen for what it is: the attempted genocide and politicide of the Jews and Israel at the hands of intolerant Islamist supremacists. This is the fondest desire of the Arabs and their supporters, but they can’t just come out and say it since this would make their anti-Semitism too blatant to be ignored. The fig-leaf of the “refugees” makes it possible for them to pretend that their war against the Jews is not about anti-Semitism but about “justice”.

    So, forget about it. The infrastructure of anti-Semitism is now so firmly entrenched at the UN and among all of the NGOs that exposing their lies by allowing the few real refugees to return to Israel will not embarrass them.

  • Expose the lies? Why bother? Until now, they’ve successfully ignored that they were lies, and frankly, no one cares about what those pencil-neck Jew geeks are whining about anyway. The Jews have to keep a strong back against ‘repatriation’. But there are too many of us that want to show the goyim how humane we are by starting with ‘family reunification’ and binational state bogus rhetoric.

  • Great post. A couple of questions really jump out at me. First, I’d like to know the feasability of reparations to those original refugees, plus what sort of entitlement would their descendants have to the claims of deceased relatives. If a right of return is recognized it seems to me it would necessitate recognizing all claims stemming from those who claimed their refugee in status in 48 since the Israeli side would seemingly be conceding culpability.

    It also seems to me that no one took into account refugees from 1967. Even if the Palestinians accepted the right of return solely of ‘original’ refugees, they would at a minimum attempt to include into that number an indeterminate amount of 67 refugees, which would also lend itself to magnifying the impossible task of settling the issue of family reunifications. I’m wondering that number would come out to, because it would has the possibility of really swaying the acceptability of such a plan across Israeli society. At the moment such a plan seems rather pallatable, although at this point I see no reason why the Palestinians would give up any of their demands. Their obstinancy has been extremely effective over the years for them, at least in the court of international public. opinion

  • I guess I have to concede to Evan’s logic. However, if claims were settled *before* an agreement to let some Palestinians “return” to Israel, on the condition that it would bury this issue, it would work.

  • Actually even that doesn’t work. The PA would make a deal and Hamas would take over and break it. 🙁

    We seriously need to wait this one out until there is a legitimate government in the territories. Until then, we just need to hope that Abbas isn’t as bad as Hamas.

  • It would be interesting to see what Mr. Bolton thinks on this issue.

    Dismantling UNWRA could be a great opening salvo for the Republicans who wish to reform/gut the UN. And it adds another couple of carrots and sticks to the American diplomatic arsenal – we saw what a great impact Bush’s Arafat-is-a-terrorist speech had in changing the playing field (at least for a while).

  • quote:
    1. That UNHCR requires that a country from which a refugee comes be their country of nationality or habitual residence, while UNWRA minimizes the standard to people who had been resident in Palestine – a territory, not a country, under a British Mandatory government mandated by the international community to provide a homeland to the Jewish nation on their historic land – for merely two years prior to the War of 1948.

    So you wanna use a technicality, that they were in a ‘territory’ instead of a ‘country’ to deny them a basic right?

    2. That UNHCR does not provide refugee status to the descendants of refugees, while UNWRA does.

    So the strategy you would promote is one where Israel waits until all the first generation refugees die out, so that you can use another technicality to deny their descendants a return to their ancestral homes?

    Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians has been so far removed from legal international conduct, I wanna ask why you even bother with legal arguments to a particular issue.

    It is telling that a Jewish expert on the situation will tell a young Palestinian who complains that she is a refugee/displaced person “No you aren’t. Maybe your parents are, but you aren’t.”

    Because, you see, the Israelis know full well that the original 1948 refugees should be allowed to return to the area they were driven out of back then, on moral and legal grounds. So they have played the waiting game, hoping that eventually all those original refugees will die “on the reservation” and the whole problem will go away.

    Unfortunately, no amount of arguing by me is going to change the situation. It is up to moderates in both Israel and Palestine to find a principled solution to the problem. And I am convinced a two-state solution will never work in the long term. Do I expect the problem to be fixed in my lifetime? Hell no. That would require faith on my part that the ruling powers on either side actually wanted peace.

    You see, there is principle, there is ethics, and then there is RealPolitic. And don’t forget what the Israeli right does to Prime Ministers it sees as soft on the Palestinians

  • Probstein, you choose your technicalities very selectively. You ignored the detail that UNWRA’s standard for a refugee was merely two years of residence, in contrast with UNHCR’s standard.

    And by the way, that “technicality” about Palestine being a territory and not a country is a very important one on many fronts, legal and ethical, not the least of which is that the “Palestinians” have never lived as a nation in their own country

    What is of greater concern is that you speak of a “basic right” and yet according to the UN and UNHCR, that “basic right” does not apply to descendants of refugees.

    You also ignore that those “basic rights” apply only to Israel. After all, Iraqi Jews can’t go back; Syrian Jews can’t go back; Egyptian Jews can’t go back; and according to the PA and most Palestinians, East Jerusalem, Gush Etzion and Hebron Jews should not be able to go back.

    So why the hypocrisy, dude?

    As for the second comment about my insidious attempt to wait out this generation of Palestinians until they die, you really haven’t thought this through very carefully, have you?

    They already are that old. Nobody is making them wait for anything except their own leadership. Wars, terrorism, unending incitement both locally and internationally, denial of Jewish historical connections to Israel and an unabashed desire to destroy Israel and/or to deny the Jews self-determination in their Jewish state, have all contributed to the advanced age of this conflict.

    At the end of the day, even discussing giving any “right of return” is a very generous compromise since the ’48 war was started by the Arabs and since they acted no differently than the Israelis in 1948 in removing the population in conquered areas in and destroying the physical buildings of the Jewish towns, neighborhoods and villages they took over. If they hadn’t lost that war, you might have a Jewish refugee problem on your hands, or you might have had a few hundred thousand Jewish dead on your hands in 1948…which happens to be one of the key reasons the Israelis fought so bravely and ultimately won.

    So even allowing the remaining Arab refugees from that period to come back to homes (that mostly no longer exist) they lost in a brutal war, is a positive gesture.

    More important, it is a gesture that falls under the guidelines of the UNHCR Convention on refugees.

    Furthermore, it is a gesture for peace. If by “moderate” you mean that even offering return to the original refugees is not enough but somehow the Palestinians get to come in and destroy Israel with an illegal “right of return” invented by UNWRA’s invention of what constitutes a refugee, then I have news for you: you’re an extremist.

    Oh, just to be clear: the Israelis know full well that on moral and legal grounds they need not allow a single refugee to re-enter. Morally, they won a war where the opponent’s intentions were the eradication of the Jews from the area. Legally, they won a war over a territory – not a country – that, if anything, was granted to the Jews by the international community. This affects the status of the Palestinian refugees and their claims. If you need very clear proof of this, just consider how desperately the Palestinians have been trying to get Israel to sign off on UNGAR 194. They do this because that would enshrine in law what currently is not enshrined…a right of return.

    Oh, and I consider myself a moderate.

  • Evan, you ask some challenging questions. Thank you.

    I’m not sure that by offering a return, the Israelis are conceding culpability. I believe it can be done as a goodwill gesture, where both sides understand it is a compromise and a way of overcoming an obstacle in achieving peace.

    As Gordon points out, even if they reject the offer, it undermines the Palestinians’ bargaining position and they would be much weaker in any negotiations.

    Would such an offer activate claims by returnees, such as for a lost house that was once worth a pittance but would now be in a prime area of Israel where homes are worth hundreds of thousands? Again, I believe it depends on how you engage the rules of return, but if you have to compensate according to today’s values, that would seem very unfair to the Israelis and would definitely be a deal killer.

    As for 1967 refugees, I’m not sure how many of those there may be and I had never thought about that war as being a cause for a massive population movement. Again, I would say it depends, but since I’m offering any return as a good faith gesture, I would guess I can restrict the return to people who were dislocated in 1948 before a state was established.

    I don’t find either answer I’ve provided too satisfactory, so maybe you’ve located significant weaknesses in this idea.

  • The Arabs can “return” to Israel oh, let’s see…..about the time the Czech Republic allows the Sudeten German refugees and their descendents to return to their homes in the Sudetenland.

  • Actually, Ephraim, back in the late ’90s former Czech President Havel made a controversial apology to the Sudeten Germans for the manner in which they had been driven from Czech lands after 1945. (Then-Czech president Benes had decreed their expulsion.)

    The issue of Sudeten rights continues to rear its head from time to time, most recently in 2002 when the Sudeten Germans objected to Czech admission to the EU. The SGs continue to seek reparation talks, but the Czech government has so far opposed that effort.

    (Having visited Karolovy Vary, f/k/a Karlsbad, the former Sudeten capital, I can tell you it’s overrun by Germans, reparations or no.)

  • Point taken, Tom. I am aware that this is still a touchy subject for Czechs and Germans both.

    However, the Sudeten Germans sided with the Nazis and paid the price. It is true that history is written by the victors; as with the Germans, the Arabs started a war, they lost, they took it in the tuchis. End of story. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

    My point is that nobody s seriously considering the repatriation of the Sudeten German refugees. It is a dead issue. The palestinian “refugee problem” is the only refugee problem that people seem to think must be solved by “repatriation”. This has been suggested as the soution for no other group of people in a silmilar situation.

    Anyway, talk is cheap. Anybody can apologize. It doesn’t cost anything. Let me know when the repatriation/compensation, etc. actually happens.

    I won’t be waiting by the phone, though.

  • My issue with Middleman’s post, Ephraim, is that it doesn’t seem useful to return to the status quo c. 1948. It’s an argument that Israel is never going to win, because many in the international community, e.g. European lefties, will seize on it as an opportunity to reprise the injustice of Palestinian expulsion.

    Besides, it’s 2005 now, and the statute, as you indicate, has run on claims of who-did-what-when more than 50 years ago. So why classify people according to their ‘status’ of that time? Don’t see how it advances anyone’s interest.

  • By the way (or, if you like, BTW), my previous post was NOT intended as an insult to all good Democratic-registered Jewlicious types who swear by the veracity of every word published in the ‘Guardian’ and refuse to watch any news program other than the BBC’s….

  • Precisely my point, Tom. I like the way you think.

    The plain fact is that while some well-meaning people see efforts by Jews and Israelis to do a mea cupla, mea maxima culpa as magnanimity by nice people trying to reach a compromise so as to alleviate other peoples’ suffering, those who have it in for the Jews see it as an admission of guilt, no, original sin, on the part of the Israelis and thus as an admission that they are in the wrong.

    Once that happens, le deluge.

    Jews always want to be nice. Others see this as weakness. The more we apologize the more they will attack us. I wish we would wise up.

    The proper thing to do do here is to stand up tall, look down our noses at them and damn their eyes. This is something they understand. It’s too bad, but that’s the way it is.

    Once Israel is secure, as the Czech republic is now, perhaps an apology will be in order. But not when it is demanded as the prelude to delegitimization.

  • I imagine much of the left in Europe (and perhaps some of the US left, e.g. the Tikkun crowd) would view any ‘apology’ or the like as triumphal confirmation of their view of Israel as a deeply-flawed outpost of Western quasi-imperialism.

    Not a good idea. Though imagine the headlines on BBC World: “Israel Admits Its Perfidy…”

  • Ephraim and Tom, you’re missing the point a bit. Both Evelyn Gordon and I are not doing this out of the goodness of our hearts. I personally believe that there should be no “return” whatsoever because of the history of this conflict and the events that brought about the manner in which Israel was created and had to protect itself.

    However, the demand for “return” is on the table, and as Gordon points out, it is such a huge component of the leveraging the Palestinians use in their negotiations, that it forces the Israelis to offer significant compromises. She posits that the Temple Mount was on the table in Barak’s time because of the importance of the “return” issue. How many times have I been in conversations where they talk about the “return” or a one state solution. The meaning is clear: give us something big in return or we will require your soul as a state to make peace.

    Offering this “return,” but on the basis of UNHCR standards deflates their strongest negotiating card.

  • Middleman, I get it, but it still seems too clever by half. Anyway, if a large group of elderly Palestinians takes up residence in Israel, they’re free to pass along their property to their heirs, right?

    As a negotiating strategy, it’s too much a matter of playing on the Palestinian’s turf. ‘Your position is morally justified; we simply think it applies to fewer people.’ Hmm. I don’t think this helps the Israelis.

    Better to say: ‘we understand that you believe you have a right to return to Israel. While we disagree that you possess any such right, we agree with you to address this claim in negotiation; and, in exchange for your express relinquishment of any such right, we agree to transfer the following territory to your jurisdiction, and you agree to accept that territory as the permanent form of your sovereign state. Thank you and good night.’

    Again, to return to 1948… Reminds me of exchanging narratives of the distant past with my ex-girlfriend. Never worked with her, either.

  • Yeah, but your ex wasn’t indicating that under no circumstances would you ever be allowed to remain alone in your apartment if you didn’t give her the car and the country club membership.

  • TM says:

    it is such a huge component of the leveraging the Palestinians use in their negotiations, that it forces the Israelis to offer significant compromises.

    No, it only forces the Israelis to make compromises if they allow themselves to be forced. Following the enemy’s script is the surest way to lose.

    Israel should just tell the palestinains to take a long walk off a short pier.

    Israel is in the right and the Arabs are in the wrong. Israel has lost sight of this, and they need to regain their confidence. Otherwise, as Tom says, the Israelis will always be playing on the palestinians’ turf. This is wht Olso and everything associated it with has been such an unmitigated disaster for Israel.

  • Ephraim, we’ve been here before (this discussion, I mean) and Israel is not an island that can survive on its own. It needs allies and trade partners on the one hand, and it needs to find a solution to the demographic time bomb on its hands with respect to the Palestinians. Solutions must be found, because time works against us, not for us. We play on their turf because they have successfully made their turf an international cause.

  • Why don’t you just admit we’re screwed and have done with it, then?

    There is evidence to suggest that the palestinian “demographic time bomb” has been greatly exaggerated.

    It doesn’t matter, anyway. Hamas will win the palestinian “elections”, if they are ever held, just like Hizb’allah won the Lebanese elections, and Israel and the world will see the problem in all of its nakedness. Israel will have no choice but to fight.

    Let us hope that Hamas starts the palestinian civil war when Fatah decides not to hold the elections, since they know that they will get their asses handed to them by Hamas. Then Israel can sit back and enjoy the spectacle of palestinians kiling each other instead of the Jews.

    I don’t know about you, but I have already got my tickets and the popcorn, soda,pizza and ice cream are ready to go. Just waiting for the curtain to go up.

  • They may fight with each other or not. Usually when they have a message to send, they try to do it via injured or dead Israelis.

    As for admitting we’re screwed and giving up, why would you or I do that? Israel is strong, vibrant and doing okay, although it could be doing better on a number of fronts.

    You have a challenge, you fight it and win. If time works against us, then we move faster. If that doesn’t jibe with your desire to have us stay in the territories, I understand your desire to just call it all quits. But really, there is a way of being smart and winning here. In fact, by building the security fence, we are in an advanced stage of implementing the decision that will help us greatly to win. All we need now is the person with enough balls to seal it.

  • Middle,
    Oh, and I consider myself a moderate.

    if baruch goldstein and yigal amir are the measuring sticks, you might be a moderate.

    you seem to ignore the fact that the mandate of UNRWA is quite limited in scope “to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees.” the explicit exclusion of the from UNHCR on the basis that they are “covered” under UNRWA, a body with no political mandate whatsoever, is laughable.

  • I don’t care whether you consider me a moderate or not but I’m glad that you find me more palatable than Goldstein and Amir. I’m a little concerned that you left out Kahane.

    If you rewrite the second, unintelligible paragraph, I’ll grace you with a response. I have no idea what you were trying to say except that it’s something “laughable.”

  • This discussion illustrates that all of the choices Israel faces (including perpetuating the status quo) are all unpalatable, to one degree or another.

    Middleman and Ephraim, you seem to agree (albeit for different reasons) that the Palestinians should be left to their own devices in their own political entity. Middleman’s right, I suspect, that the sooner this occurs, the better. The borders of any P state will be debated endlessly, anyway. So, give them something and see how they do.

    This will enable Israel to hold the Ps to a bargain. It shifts the moral scrutiny over to the P leadership class. On balance, it probably enhances Israeli security. Better to fight a state, if it comes to that, than an amorphous terrorist movement, as we’ve seen in Iraq.

    My guess is that any P state that falls short of maximal P territorial demands will soon amount to a kind of Weimar Palestine, with Abbas playing Hindenburg (or Kurt von Schleicher) and Hamas in the role of the NSDAP.

  • Interesting assessment of what will happen. Sharon will have to remain alive for some years to actually have this kind of outcome. I’m not sure there’s another Israeli politician with the clout and the foresight to implement this type of outcome.

  • Sharon, and Tony Blair, too, look pretty good from a distance. Sharon sure doesn’t lack for cojones. The fence and Gaza disengagement both seem shrewd moves to this very distant observer(the fence, obviously so).

  • Tom, that’s exactly what’s happenning already, even without the state (great analogy, BTW, wish I’d thought of it). Once Abbas decides not to hold the “elections”, Hamas will just take over anyway. They really already run things effectively; they just haven’t bothered to shoot anybody. Fatah is a spent force and everybody knows that Abbas’ whole organization is nothing but a Potemkin village.

    Israel cannot “give” the ps a state. They have to declare it. While Arafat was still alive, the old shitsack kept on threatening to declare a state, yet he never did. Why?

    Pretty simple and for precisely the reasons you state: he knew, and all of his successors including the PA and Hamas, etc., know, that it is much easier for Israel to fight a state. That is precisely why they will never declare one so long as Israel is still around.

    A state means that someone can be held responsible, and punished for, attacks on Israel. The PA wants to be able to evade responsibility for anything the ps do. If there is a state, the shekel stops there. Too risky.

    Not only that, once a state is declared, many people will see this as the fulfillment of p “aspirations”, since many seem to still foolishly believe that they want a state rather than the destruction of Israel.

    Even if Israel wihdraws from almost all of Judea and Samaria, they will never give up Jerusalem. Since this is so, the ps will never declare a state, and they’ll just make up some excuse like “no state without Al Quds”.

    Their goal is not statehood, their goal is the destruction of Israel. A state will constrain them in this, so it will never happen.

  • I wonder how, or whether, US policy toward the Ps will change if Hamas sweeps Fatah out of power by ‘democratic’ means. So much for even a semblance of a negotiating partner in such a case…

  • Well, we’ll find out soon enough. If they’re smart, Hamas will wait for an election. Let’s hope they’re dumb and shoot their way in instead.

    But I’m afraid that if they’re “democratically” elected the US policy may indeed change to Israel’s detriment.

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