The platform also touches on one of the key sticking points in negotiations between the two sides - the issue of Palestinian refugees.As I mentioned just two posts down, Israelis fear the right of return would make them a minority in their own land. But while Israeli citizens may fear that, does the Israeli government truly share that fear? There is good reason to think not.
According to Hamas, the government "holds fast to the rights of Palestinian refugees, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their land and belongings."
But, said the Israeli official, "anyone who looks carefully at the document will see that there is a regression on a number of important issues."
He noted the platform's call for the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel and its affirmation of the Palestinian right of resistance against Israel.
Back in November 2004 I wrote this post on the death of Yasser Arafat, during which the disastrous 2000 summit among Arafat, Bill Clinton, and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak came up. At that meeting, Barak made a supposedly "generous offer" to Arafat, involving a Palestinian state in Gaza and something like 90% of the West Bank. Arafat refused, talks broke down, and he was denounced by Clinton as having proved he was uninterested in peace.
There is just one problem: The deal that Barak proposed was one that the Israelis knew in advance Arafat would not, could not, accept. It was nothing but a propaganda ploy designed to head off the possibility of a settlement. ...What's more, the Israeli government knew at the time that Arafat would have been satisfied with a commitment to resettle some 20,000-30,000 Palestinian refugees in Israel rather than the 300,000-400,000 he was publicly accused of wanting.
What was wrong with the "generous" offer? Two things. One, the 10% of the West Bank not part of this Palestinian state would be occupied by Israeli "security corridors" connecting settlements and outposts, which would have effectively sliced the West Bank into a bunch of Bantustans, with Palestinians needing the permission of the Israeli military to get from one part of their country to another.
The other, perhaps even more important, issue was that the agreement would have required the Palestinians to completely relinquish any "right of return," the dream of the families of those who fled or were driven from their homes during the 1948 war to return to them someday. This is an intensely emotional issue among Palestinians: I remember one activist telling me some years ago "the Jews did not forget their homeland in 2,000 years but they expect us to forget ours in twenty-five." No Palestinian leader could have accepted that and survived politically - and perhaps physically. And the Israelis knew it. What's more, they also knew that
"[e]ven those who hold an 'extreme' position on the issue, among them Arafat, have adopted the position that if Israel recognizes the right of return in principle, its implementation can be partial and limited."
But the principle itself was simply not negotiable. The "generous offer" was bogus to its core.
It surely knows the same now: Refusing to even discuss a right of return is to deliberately and consciously reject the hope for peace.
So much for wisdom.