MK Avi Dichter, former Minister of Internal Security, spoke to Arutz Sheva's Hebrew-language news service Sunday regarding negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. The discussion focused on senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, who recently told the British daily The Guardian that Israel must recognize the Arab “right of return” if it wants peace.
According to Erekat, the “right of return” should apply not only to Arabs who fled pre-state Israel during the War of Independence, but also to every one of their descendants, making a total of seven million people eligible to “return” to Israel. “In Bosnia and in Palestine, the return of refugees has been considered absolutely necessary for the stability of peace,” he said.
Erekat's remarks are unprecedented, but not overly worrisome, Dichter said. While PA leaders have often voiced demands for “return” in the Arab press, “I don't remember [seeing] such extreme statements from such a senior figure,” he said.
However, he said, “The 'right of return' will not be included in the peace process... Talk about the 'right of return' is meaningless. Everyone understands that there will not be a solution that includes 'return,' no matter who says what.”
Erekat's statements were “manipulative, and completely baseless,” Dichter continued. “Erekat will need to swallow his words,” he said. “He has taken back many things he said in the past, and he will have to take this back as well.”
No Peace Without Gaza
Dichter warned of a “systematic, organized fraud perpetrated by the PA” regarding negotiations. “Ever since the overthrow in Gaza, they've been drawing all attention to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, and ignoring Gaza completely,” he said.
“The subject of Gaza is a central issue that must not be ignored – not by Israel, not by the United States, not by the Quartet, and not by the Arab nations,” he continued. “Gaza is an abscess that must be burst – either by the Arab nations bringing PA control back to Gaza, or by Israel toppling the terrorist infrastructure in a process that will last for years.”
“We cannot continue to have an Iranian-directed terrorist identity between us and Egypt,” he concluded.
Israel must ensure that Gaza, and all other relevant issues, are dealt with under any peace deal, Dichter said. “We cannot go step by step, it has to be one whole process... A peace deal is like delivering a child. One does not birth a partial baby, and similarly, one cannot birth a partial peace.”