Will the Knesset's UAE vote return hope to the Arab "right of return?"

The UAE is granting citizenship as a means of upward mobility for valued residents. Does that include Palestinian Arab UAE residents? Op-ed.

Tamar Adelstein ,

PM delivers remarks at Knesset hearing for approval of UAE agreement
PM delivers remarks at Knesset hearing for approval of UAE agreement
Gideon Sharon / Knesset

Dear Members of Knesset,

We wish to call your immediate attention to the following report we compiled for you on the Abraham Accords you are to ratify today..

Are the Abraham Accords a RETURN OF HOPE or HOPE OF RETURN?

Will 100,000 Palestinian emigres now in the UAE be invited back to help populate an emerging Palestinian Arab state?

The UAE positions itself to spearhead the Ingathering of the Palestinian Exiles

Two years ago, an Op-Ed piece in Haaretz' English language Israeli news site carried this headline: Hope of Return Keeps the Palestinian Refugees Going, dateline: 10.4.2018

Last week, this headline was carried by dozens of internet news sites, quoting the UAE state news agency:

UAE foreign minister emphasizes return of hope, Palestinians and Israelis to work for two-state solution - WAM [UAE state news agency] dateline: 10.6.2020

The UAE has its own Palestinian problem and Israel is the solution.

The UAE is host to upwards of 100,000 people who claim their homeland to be the lands of the Jordan Valley and west to the sea. These "guests" of the UAE are among the 8 million or so residents in the Emirates who do not have status as citizens – which is more than 80% of the resident population.

News of expansion of citizenship rights in the UAE does not include Palestinian Arab expatriates.

The prerogatives of citizenship limited to the few has served the UAE government well since its establishment fifty years ago. But now the UAE is at a crossroads in its rigid qualifications for citizenship, which now excludes some otherwise very successful business and professional people from fully participating in the booming economy. The UAE is drawing up plans to expand eligibility for citizenship.

"On Sept. 30, the Emirati government unveiled proposed changes to the country’s citizenship law that would ease the way for investors, long-term residents and wealthy foreigners to earn a permanent place in the country."

But one drawback to such a plan for expanded eligibility for citizenship is that it might have to include such "guests" as the exiles from Gaza and the 'West Bank', whose utility as citizens is not seen as a prospective asset.

Palestinian expatriates int he UAE are insecure and could be told to leave.

Eleven years ago, the UAE demonstrated how tenuous is the existence of these exiles within the Gulf state - summarily, an indeterminate number of temporary residents identified as Palestinian Arabs were expelled, with no coherent reason being provided until this day. This move was condemned throughout the Arab world, which had already established standards for appeal from deportation orders among its members.

Before it can start providing citizenship as a means of upward mobility for the valued residents, the UAE may want to find a way to dump its Palestinian Arab population.

The "Abraham Accords" open a pathway for the UAE to painlessly divest itself of an irritating obstacle to its plans to include more affluent guests as citizens.

One hundred thousand Palestinians now living in the UAE forced to return to their place of origin might easily push-start world-wide momentum for a "Palestinian Ingathering" from among the "Palestinian Diaspora".

There do not seem to be any media reports on the Abraham Accords disclosing whether Israel is prepared to counter a surge of return by Palestinian natives who might yet be declared unwelcome by the UAE government.

Disclosure of such plans would be in very bad taste during at a time when Israel is anxious to demonstrate to the United States its good will in cooperating with the UAE.

A Jewish majority is a deterrent

The establishment of a Palestinian state opens up a can of worms, demographically, for the State of Israel: 5.5 million Arabs are claimed to live in the same territory controlled by just under 7 million Jews. But as many as 2.5 million more people claiming Palestinian nationality live scattered in dozens of countries around the world. Simple logic demonstrates that were they all to return to the area west of the Jordan, they would find themselves a majority in an area dominated by a population suddenly reduced to a minority.

But many of those countries where Palestinian expatriates (or exiles) live have no diplomatic relations with Israel. Only the sheer logistics of obtaining a visa to revisit their homeland prevent the area from being demographically dominated by those of Arab ancestry.

Careful granting of visas guards the claim to sovereignty

As of today, October 14, the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not display the UAE among the countries in which the State of Israel has a diplomatic presence.

Further, visas issued to visitors to Israel carrying a UAE passport must be individually certified by the MFA.

This of course is subject to change. Checking visa requirements between Israel and the UAE, Wikipedia notes:

"More information will be available soon due to the Israel-UAE peace agreement."

The hope for a Palestinian state would be immensely enhanced by an inward migration of those currently scattered throughout the "Palestinian Diaspora". Easy visas - or no visas - would make the absorption of Palestinians expelled from the UAE a dream come true for them, and a nightmare for Israeli security.

The signal that they need not have any fear of the government disrupting their passage into the land would embolden those who arrive with most murderous instincts - a point made over and over again by the current President of the United States regarding unrestricted access to his own country's shores by uninvited criminal invaders.

Relaxed visa requirements - a welcome mat for returning Palestinian Arabs

While the Jewish state maintains and uninterruptedly preserves its options for sovereignty over the land, there is little incentive for Palestinians scattered throughout the world to return home.

But, if...emphasis on "if" these exiles are to be given some shred of tangible evidence that a Palestinian State might become a reality, many would be inspired to make "aliya".

The UAE has advertised that its initiative in the Abraham Accords is to keep the concept of a two-state solution alive - meaning that any commitment Israel makes to refrain from annexing lands west of the Jordan - however “temporary" Israel says that commitment is - sounds a clarion call to exiled Arabs to return to their homeland to build their own new state. At the same time, this rallying point provides a benign destination for those the UAE plans to expel.

The Abraham Accords,unpopular today among PA Arabs, will quickly be transformed to a perception that UAE is a hero, having forced open the door to re-emigration of exiles to swell the population of a future Palestinian state.

Will the Abraham Accords and other similar regional agreements oblige the State of Israel to accept these Palestinian “returnees” with nowhere else to go but back “home”?

How will Israel respond to masses of heritage-touring Arabs claiming Palestinian Arab descent and demanding rights to repatriate either to Palestinian Authority-controlled territory in Judea, Samaria or Gaza or to the State of Palestine Israel leaders committed to when they signed these regional treaties that include “achieving a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution (the two-state solution) to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”?

Will Israeli leaders succumb to the pressure to overlook potential, if not, obvious security risks a major influx of Palestinian Arabs might cause?

Is this the "Right of Return"... in plain sight?

At the time of the British Mandate, the anti-Zionist Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld was asked to sign a document relinquishing Jewish ownership of the Kotel Ha’Maaravi, the Western Wall, in a deal to allow Jewish worship there. He said:

"We have no right to forfeit a gift of G-d to the Jewish People..."

The father of Relioious Zionism, HaRav Kook, also refused to sign.

The nations of the world must not be allowed to say they have stopped assertion of Israeli sovereignty on what is not an Israeli politician’s to give away. They must not allow UAE Palestinian Arab residents into Judea and Samaria.

Tamar Adelstein is co-ordinator of Chabad's Crown Heights Women for The Safety And Integrity of Israel, Uniting Jewish Women around the World Under the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Directives for True Peace.







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