Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority must renounce their demand for the “right of return,” which he explained reflects a will to destroy Israel after signing a peace accord with it.
“They must renounce, once and for all, the demand to settle the descendants of the refugees and to take over Israel’s territory piecemeal after obtaining a peace treaty,” Netanyahu warned.
He was speaking at the official state memorial for modern Zionism’s central visionary, Binyamin Zev Herzl, who died 105 years ago. Fifteen members of Herzl’s family attended, as did President Shimon Peres, other dignitaries, soldiers and Jewish and Arab youths.
The Prime Minister added: “I yearn for the day that the Palestinian leaders face their people and say these clear words: ‘We have had enough of this conflict. We, the Palestinians, recognize the right of the Jewish people to a country of its own on this land. We will live beside you in true peace.”
“Once these things are said, a window – even a huge opening – will be opened to peace,” he said.
Video: Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz explains why Israel doesn't need to open its doors to Arabs who fled in 1948 [starts @45 second mark]
The "right of return" is a claim made by the Arab nations that Arab residents of Israel who were driven out of their homes in the course of the 1948 Independence War should be allowed to return. But as Michell G. Bard in his work Myths & Facts documents, many Arabs left by choice prefering to adhere to promises of the invading Arab armies that if they evacuated their homes, they would return after the war to their own homes as well as those of their Jewish neighbors:
The beginning of the Arab exodus [from Israel] can be traced to the weeks immediately following the announcement of the UN partition resolution. By the end of January 1948, the exodus was so alarming, the Palestine Arab Higher Committee asked neighboring Arab countries to refuse visas to these [Arab] refugees and to seal their borders against them.Matt Zeiderman contributed to this report.
Contemporary press reports of major battles in which large numbers of Arabs fled conspicuously fail to mention any forcible expulsion by the Jewish forces. The Arabs are usually described as "fleeing" or "evacuating" their homes.
"The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies," according to the Jordanian newspaper Filastin (February 19, 1949). One refugee quoted in the Jordan newspaper, Ad Difaa (September 6, 1954), said: "The Arab government told us: Get out so that we can get in. So we got out, but they did not get in."
Israel consistently sought a solution to the refugee problem, but could not simply agree to allow all Palestinians to return.
No nation, regardless of past rights and wrongs, could contemplate taking in a fifth-column of such a size. And fifth-column it would be — people nurtured for 20 years [in 1967] in hatred of and totally dedicated to its destruction.
The readmission of the refugees would be the equivalent to the admission to the U.S. of nearly 70,000,000 sworn enemies of the nation.