In the recent historic Abrahamic Peace Accords (August 13, 2020), which established full peace and diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain, signed at the White House by U.S. President Donald Trump, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, and Minister of Foreign Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyani, the issue of “Right of Return” was not brought up.
One of the principle issues that prevents peace between Israel and the Palestinian-Arabs is the “Right of Return to Israel” of Palestinian refugees. The visionless Mahmoud Abbas, and his cohorts in the Palestinian Authority (PA), lack the vision and humanity to end the plight of the descendants of Palestinian refugees, by ending the illusion of the “Right of Return.” Now more than 72 years following the 1948 War of Independence for Israel, and “Nakba” for the Palestinians, most all of the original refugees have died. Still, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is demanding the return of their third or even fourth generation descendants to Israel. However, the refugees were not only on the Arab side. More Jews became refugees than Arab-Palestinians as a result of being kicked out of the Arab states, where they resided long before the Islamic invasion. Conversely, many of the Palestinian refugees were relative newcomers to Mandatory Palestine. They migrated to Palestine for jobs Palestinian-Jews created during the Mandatory period. While the Jewish refugees from the Arab countries were fully assimilated into Israeli life, Arab refugees were deliberately relegated to refugee camps and left in miserable conditions. If Israel would agree to the “Right of Return,” Israeli Jews would become a minority in the Jewish state, defeating the very purpose of Israel, namely, a home for the Jewish people in their historic homeland. It would simply be a suicide pact for the Jewish state.
The “Right of Return” has been, and continues to be, a formula for the destruction of the Jewish state through demographic means. In 1959, the Arab League passed resolution 1547, purportedly in order to preserve the Palestinian unity and Palestinian identity. The resolution stated that Palestinians would be denied citizenship in the Arab countries in which they resided. It was a purely political ploy, and heartless in human terms. It was meant to prevent Palestinians and their descendants from assimilating into the Arab societies they lived in. Despite the fact that they spoke the same language and professed the same religion (mostly Sunni-Islam), they were kept apart in refugee camps. It was a deliberate way to keep the Palestinians in perpetual misery. Lest we forget, it was the very same Arab countries that waged a war of annihilation against the nascent Jewish state that created the refugee problem in the first place. Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria invaded the State of Israel with the aim of destroying it and killing its Jews. Yet, these same countries, with the exception of Jordan, have refused to confer citizenship rights to the same Palestinians they, in many cases, ordered to evacuate their homes. That of course does not absolve the Palestinian leadership of their culpability. They rejected the opportunity to accept the UN partition plan and form their own state. No refugee problem would have existed had they said yes to partition.
In 2002, during the bloody Second intifada, the Arab League summit in Beirut produced a peace plan which was presented by Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Abdullah. The Saudi peace plan conditioned normalization of relations with Israel based on Israeli forces full withdrawal from the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. It also called for the recognition by Israel of an independent Palestinian state. Most of these demands were agreed upon by Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak (July 2000), and Ehud Olmert (2008). The Saudi peace proposal was then altered by the Palestinian delegation who threatened to walk out unless the peace plan included the UN resolution 194, which specifies that Palestinians and descendants of refugees must maintain the “Right of Return” to their “ancestral homes, i.e. Israel. The Palestinian delegation, under the tutelage of Yasser Arafat, also demanded the enforcement of the law barring Palestinians from obtaining citizenship in Arab countries. The Palestinian delegation was backed by Lebanese President, Emile Lahoud.
My Lebanese native friend suggested that given the fact that the Palestinian leadership refused to allow their fellow Palestinian “refugees” in Lebanon (approximately 475,000 strong) to become Lebanese citizens, the Lebanese government should facilitate the transfer of the Palestinians to Libya, a country that is territorially huge, with a very sparse population.
The late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon could not accept the Saudi peace plan. The addition of the “Right of Return” made it especially unacceptable for Israel. Arafat’s refusal to “end the conflict,” in spite of the generous concessions offered by PM Barak earlier at the Camp David II summit (July 2000), showed that the Palestinian leadership was unwilling to compromise. President Bill Clinton, who hosted the summit, applauded the Israeli concessions. He lamented Arafat’s unwillingness to ‘end the conflict,’ bringing peace and prosperity to his Palestinian people.
During last week’s Arab League summit in Cairo, the Palestinians once again demanded that the League condemn UAE as it successfully implemented its demand against Egypt in 1979, following Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat’s peacemaking with Israel’s Prime Minister Menahem Begin at Camp David. Back then, it worked well for the Palestinians. The Arab League complied with their demand, suspending diplomatic relations with Egypt and moved the offices of the League out of Cairo. This time, however, the Arab League rejected the Palestinian’s demand. Moreover, Egypt and some other Arab states welcomed the Bahrain and UAE decision to make peace with the Jewish state.
As the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and Gaza move evermore closer to the radical camp of Iran and Turkey (Erdogan’s Turkey is the champion of Muslim Brotherhood), the moderate Sunni-Arab states, especially in the Gulf, are diminishing their support for the Palestinian cause. Along with diplomatic support, the Gulf states hitherto generous support to the Palestinians is likewise declining. It has left the Palestinians with Qatar (part of the radical group and a Muslim Brotherhood bloc supporter) as their sole and reliable financial source (other than the Europeans).
This situation reinforces the strategic imperatives for the moderate Arab Gulf states to bring Israel into their defensive front against the aggressive and hegemonic moves by the mullahs of Iran and the megalomaniacal ambitions of Turkey’s President Erdogan, the self-assuming Sultan of the neo-Ottoman Empire. At the same time, moderate Sunni-Arab leaders increasingly view the Palestinian leadership as unreasonable and irresponsible. For the Palestinians, it means that they no longer have a veto power over Arab states relations with Israel. This month’s White House Abrahamic Peace between Israel, Bahrain and the UAE proves it.
Palestinian persistence on maintaining the “Right of Return” as a condition to ‘end the conflict’ with Israel, can only mean one thing. They seek to replace Israel, not make peace with it.
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