The 'Right of Return' Is No Bargaining Chip

Why the negotiation paradigm has to change.

Alan Dershowitz recently penned an article for The Jerusalem Post in which he relates a candid conversation had with Palestinian prime minister Salaam Fayyad. The context of the discussion regarded the most difficult compromises Israel and the Palestinians would need to make to forge an “enduring” peace.

In Fayyad’s words: “Each side has a major card to play and a major compromise to make; for Israel, that card is the West Bank, and the compromise is returning to the 1967 lines with agreed-upon adjustments and land swaps; for the Palestinians, that card is ‘the right of return,’” and, according to Fayyad, this demand would need to be dropped.

This basic give-and-take paradigm has dominated the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating process for decades: if Israel retreats to the ‘67 borders and the Palestinians give up the preposterous “right to return,” then peace would be but a hop, skip, and a jump away.

What has seemingly been ignored, however, is what such a development would tangibly entail for the lone Jewish State in the world. In other words, what would happen if the Palestinians did, in fact, finally give up their bogus “right”?

According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his sensational and effective rebuke of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Mideast policy at the White House last month, “The Palestinian refugee problem will…be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state but certainly not in the borders of Israel[.]”

Sounds good.

The Palestinians flock to “Palestine,” the Jewish State retains its sovereignty -- Israel wins!

Or does she?

The problem with this scenario is that it is a recipe for complete disaster.

In effect, this would involve the resettlement in the infant state of “Palestine”—which will lack any semblance of a self-sustaining economy (and will therefore be devoid of basic social services), and be half-governed by a radical Islamic terrorist organization bent on Israel’s destruction—of nearly five million poor, undereducated, unemployed Palestinians. Moreover, these ex-“refugees” will have spent the majority of their existence being indoctrinated to believe that it is their inherent right to return, en masse, not to “Palestine” but rather to Israel, so as to wipe out the lone Jewish State in the world.

Given these “stable” circumstances, is it rational to consider this prospect a plausible “solution” for Israel? Are we to expect that these five million individuals, further influenced by the pervasive anti-Semitic Palestinian culture and the genocidal convictions of Hamas, will be contented to, in a systematic fashion, assimilate into “Palestine,” thereby suppressing the longing—their raison d’etre—to reconnect with their “heritage” by re-occupying the land of their forefathers, the property “stolen” from them by insidious Jews?

As evidenced this previous May 15th, known to Palestinians as “Nakba Day”— the yearly commemoration of the “catastrophe” of Israel’s birth—when thousands of belligerents raided Israel’s border, and attempted to illegally infiltrate the Jewish State. Not the West Bank, mind you, or any other imagined “occupied” territory. The notion of a peaceful Palestinian “return,” even to “Palestine,” is a pipedream, a distortion of reality, a dangerous lie.

There would be absolutely no way to contain such a process—chaos—nor its future ramifications.

And in what position would Israel then find itself, confronted with this bleak reality after having signed an “historic” peace agreement with the Palestinians—ceding land in exchange for the Palestinian willingness to forgo the ephemeral and politically concocted “right of return”?

The indefensible 1967 borders.

There is only one answer to the Palestinian “refugee” problem: to explain to the world—and especially to the Palestinians themselves—that there is no such thing as a Palestinian refugee; that the title refugee is not hereditary, and, as such, does not apply to fourth-generation Palestinian descendants.

And what of the need to resettle these pseudo-refugees? The fact of the matter is that they do not need to be resettled at all, but rather accepted into their existing societies—their home countries—the likes of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Furthermore, in the context of a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, which will purportedly bring peace to the Middle East, a country like Saudi Arabia, for example, with its vast oil wealth, should be made to contribute to the emerging ‘utopia’ by extending citizenship to the approximately 500,000 Palestinians residing therein, and not continue to hold them “hostage,” utilizing them as political weapons against the Jewish State. Then, in the not-so-distant future, once “Palestine” develops into the flourishing democracy the West alleges it will become, “displaced” Palestinians could be given the option to “return” to Palestine in well-coordinated, orderly waves of immigration. This would not be unlike the process that allowed for some one million Jewish refugees to be successfully integrated into nascent Israel following their expulsion from nearly every Middle-Eastern Arab country.

This proposition constitutes a practical solution to an unfortunate and seemingly impossible situation. However, until such time that this truth is overtly conveyed by the Israeli government, and subsequently widely internalized, Israel might as well begin constructing a real Iron Dome to surround the country, in order to protect the Jewish State against future assaults on its territorial sovereignty carried out by those whose aim is to “return” to a land to which they have absolutely no claim.

Charles Bybelezer is publications chairman at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. He can be reached at