The Yesha Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria has issued a memo succinctly exposing the PA’s anti-peace bargaining positions.
The Council’s position paper is largely based on the words of chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat. In an article in the London Guardian last month, Erekat wrote that Israel must address the “legitimate rights” of no fewer than 7 million “Palestinian refugees” around the world – or else any peace deal between Israel and the PA would be “completely untenable.”
"The fact that Israel bears responsibility for the creation of the refugees is beyond argument,” Erekat wrote. “Disregarding their legitimate legal rights enshrined in international law, their understandable grievances accrued over prolonged displacement, and their aspirations to return to their homeland, would certainly make any peace deal signed with Israel completely untenable.”
An estimated half-million Arabs left what is now Israel during the 1948 War of Independence, many at the behest of neighboring Arab nations. However, when they arrived in Lebanon, Gaza, Jordan and elsewhere, they found themselves housed in permanent refugee camps, with no option of becoming permanent citizens in their host countries. Instead, these countries have used the “refugees” as pawns, perpetuating the injustice that they then blame on Israel.
“Every single one of these [refugee] camps is within the jurisdiction of an Arab government,” write researchers Nicole Brackman and Asaf Romirowsky, who continue, “Despite a history of flowery pronouncements celebrating the ‘commitment’ to the resolution of the refugee issue, Palestinian refugees continue to be used as pawns by their own leaders.”
Erekat wrote that the half-million-turned-7-million refugees have the legitimate right to return to their former villages within Israel even if another Palestinian state is formed in Judea and Samaria.
Arab Refugees are Defined Differently
It should be noted that while refugees around the world are defined as people who lived in a particular place “from time immemorial” and were forced to leave because of war and the like, Palestinian refugees are defined differently. According to UNRWA, "Every Arab who left Israel in 1948, and who [had] lived there for two years [emphasis added], will also be considered a refugee - he and his descendants.”
It is a matter of consensus in Israel’s polarized society that an influx of Arab refugees into Israel would threaten the Jewish character of the state and can therefore not be entertained as an option.
Other Non-Peace PA Positions
In pointing out other non-starters in the PA negotiating position, the Yesha Council also notes that Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas has said to the Arab countries, “If you would all make war against Israel, we would be in favor. But the Palestinians will not fight alone, because they do not have the wherewithal.”
Strengthening this perception that the Palestinian Authority does not truly want peace with Israel is another statement by Fatah bigwig Erekat. Discussing Fatah’s overtures to Hamas, Erekat said in 2009, “No one [amongst us] ever asked Hamas to recognize Israel, to abandon the path of resistance [terrorism], or to change its behavior.”
Just last week, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized the PA leadership for continuing to insist on three no's: No to recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, no to Israeli security arrangements, and no to dropping its refugee-return demands.
Conclusion: Not Partners for Peace
The Yesha Council concludes that in light of the PA’s bellicose intransigence, “Israel must understand that partners like these are not partners for peace. They are unable to comprehend Israel’s position or to accept Israel’s minimal legitimate demands. Without this sincere desire on the PA’s part to reach a ‘historic compromise,’ Israel must now abandon the outdated Oslo path and outline a new policy.”