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      Rajoub: ‘Right of Return’ Isn't Necessarily Physical

      Senior Fatah official at Presidential Conference: Arabs "are not looking to make a drastic demographic change in Israel."
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 6/23/2011, 4:03 AM / Last Update: 6/23/2011, 5:16 AM

      PMW

      A senior member of the Palestinian Authority leadership sought on Wednesday to convince his audience at the President's Conference in Jerusalem that there is a change the PA’s position regarding the so-called ‘right of return.’

      PA leaders have demanded that as part of a future peace agreement Israel allow millions of Arabs descended from those who fled during the 1948 War of Independence to “return” to the cities in which their grandparents and great-grandparents once lived.

      This is totally unacceptable to Israel, although former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was said to have offered a partial offer on the issue. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that there is no negotiation possible on the "right of return".  Obama was criticized in Israel for not referring to it in his speech on using 1967 lines (indefensible 1949 armistice lines) as a basis for starting talks.

      But The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Jibril Rajoub, a former head of PA security and a member of the Fatah Central Committee, said during the Presidential Conference that the PA will not insist on a physical return for Arab refugees and their families to Israeli-controlled territories as part of a peace agreement.

      Rajoub was quoted as saying Israel was responsible for solving the issue of the Arab “refugees” but added that ultimately it would be resolved in agreement between Israelis and Arabs.

      “We are not looking to make a drastic demographic change in the society of the state of Israel,” he was quoted as saying.

      There has been no confirmation of this statement from PA leadership. This would ental the PA abandoning the motif of "return" to Israel's cities with which it has been educating youngsters for tens of years in songs, textbooks and summer camps and for which Arab states kept the descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in refugee camps, stateless and devoid of rights, for the same period.

      Rajoub reportedly also tried to play down the significance of the PA’s plan to seek unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state in the United Nations in September.

      “Israel was established by a UN resolution in 1947,” AP quoted Rajoub as saying. “I think our right is to go to the UN and ask them to implement the other birth certificate for the other state.”

      Referring to the possibility of a third Arab intifada, Rajoub said violence was “not on our schedule.”

      These comments are in line with ones recently made by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who said in April that the second intifada in 2000 was ‘disastrous’ for the ‘Palestinian nation’ and said he ‘would not accept’ a third intifada even if current peace efforts fail.

      One of Abbas’ advisors, however, recently made different claims and predicted a third intifada if no breakthrough occurs in peace negotiations.

      Finally, in his remarks at the Presidential Conference, Rajoub also urged Israel to freeze its construction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and negotiate with Abbas.

      “Abu Mazen [Abbas’ nickname –ed.] is committed,” he said. “Abu Mazen is the last opportunity for the Israelis.”