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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Souk Bargaining v Real Diplomacy

There is a story I heard many years ago about bargaining in the souk. A man is trying to sell his donkey. A potential buyer comes and asks about the price. The buyer wants a lower price. The seller refuses. Then the buyer wants the bridle. The seller refuses. Then the buyer wants the blanket on the donkey. The seller refuses. Then the buyer starts to walk away, and the seller realizes that he's losing the sale. "But you can keep the hobbles," he says to the buyer, in an effort not to lose his customer.

This puts me in mind of the Palestinian approach to the peace process, which is to always come up with some non-negotiable demand in response to ever-more-generous Israeli offers, and then scream about how the Israelis are the obstacle to peace.

I have been assured repeatedly by friends and acquaintances to the political Left of me that the Palestinian "Right of Return" is nothing more than symbolic. That the descendants of the Palestinian refugees living outside of Israel have no real desire to live in Tel Aviv or Karmiel or Haifa, and that what they are really seeking is a public acknowledgement of their plight, Israel's "responsibility" for their trauma and exile, and some form of monetary recompense or reparation.

So every time I have pointed out that the "Right of Return" is a non-starter and a red line no Israeli government will cross, I hear the snickers and "tsk, tsk" from the Left, with the sometimes condescending platitudes about how I fail to understand the Palestinian perspective and what the people and their leadership really want, and how this is merely symbolic and not any kind of impediment to peace, really.

Really?!

It turns out that the "Right of Return" is not as benign as the peace camp would wish. This is from Friday's Jerusalem Post, quoting the Washington Post's coverage of this issue:

The Washington Post on May 25 reported that according to PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), prime minister Olmert accepted the principle of the "right of return" for Arab refugees and offered to resettle thousands in Israel. Abbas also said that Olmert offered him 97% of Judea and Samaria (after Israel had already withdrawn from Gaza in 2005). In addition, last week Newsweek reported that Olmert had told them that he proposed that Israel would give up its sovereignty in the "Holy Basin" in Jerusalem and suggested that it be jointly administered by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the PLO, Israel and the United States; this was confirmed by PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Furthermore, the Palestinians have no intention of abiding by the U.N. Resolution 181 calling for two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian:

PLO leader Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) explained lately to Haaretz that "it's not fair to demand that we recognize you [Israel] as the state of the Jewish people because that means... a predetermination of the refugees' future, before the negotiations are over. Our refusal is adamant." To prevent misunderstanding, Mahmoud Abbas, in his Washington Post interview, rejected the possibility that the PLO recognizes Israel as a Jewish state because it would imply renunciation of any large-scale resettlement of refugees.

Imply? We've been crystal clear on this from the beginning: so-called "Palestinian refugees" (those being Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Gaza and West Bank-born descendants of people claiming to be Palestinian refugees) are NOT coming to live in Israel.

Is there something we're not making clear here? Like Jewish refugees driven from Europe, Iran, Ethiopia, and multitudinous Arab countries who found refuge ONLY in the Jewish state, your refugees need to find refuge in the Palestinian state.

Not good enough for Abbas & Co.

In other words:

Internationalizing the Old City and Kidron Valley (also Obama's plan) isn't acceptable--the Palestinians want it for themselves and won't recognize any Jewish right to the city that is our Mecca and in which we were the majority population in 1948;

Giving up 97% of the Occupied West Bank, and making up the remaining 3% with land swaps isn't enough;

Building a land bridge to Gaza so there is 'territorial contiguity' between the two districts isn't enough;

"Acknowledging" that there is a right of return but it won't be to Israel except in some minor family-reunion situations isn't enough.

In short, the Palestinians are demanding a return to the status quo ante of 1967 PLUS a demand that Israel absorb a hostile Arab population educated to kill Jews and hate Israel (never mind that they've lived on the dole for three generations, don't speak the language and don't have any job skills--several million enemy aliens on welfare is not what we need, thank you), PLUS a settlement freeze PLUS the evacuation of anything Jewish over the pre-67 armistice line, plus some of Israel's real estate so they can facilitate weapons transfers from Gaza to the West Bank.

I've said it before, and need to tell those who push the sugar-coated idea that the Right of Return is simply "symbolic" -- no, it's not. The Palestinians have never acknowledged the Arab defeats of 1948, 1967 or 1972 or the Intifadas---they are still fighting the Partition and this is an on-going war to eradicate Israel and replace it with an Arab state.

Until the Palestinians evidence some acceptance that ultimately there will be two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Palestinian, there is no peace process. Their utter intransigence is going to end what feeble peace process there is.

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