Friday, May 20, 2011

And The Overriding Obstacle Is...?

Peter Berkowitz:

...Thanks to “The Palestine Papers and the Right of Return,”...we know that what has been widely assumed is wrong. The study (available online as a PDF file) carefully analyzes the leaked Palestine Papers...[that]show that the biggest stumbling block is fundamental disagreement about refugees...the Palestine Papers do not reveal conciliatory Palestinians pitted against inflexible Israelis. For example, whereas Israel is prepared to welcome a small symbolic number of refugees, the PA seeks to preserve an unlimited flow that would, by sheer numbers and deliberate intention, end Israel by turning it into an Arab-majority state.

The refugee question is inseparable from a neglected aberration in international law. For all peoples but one, international law defines a refugee as a person forced to live outside the country of his origin. For Palestinians alone, international law treats refugee status as passed down from parents to children...for the last ten years Palestinian negotiators — led since 2004 by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat (who resigned after it was determined that the documents published by Al Jazeera were leaked from his office) — sought a formula that guarantees an individual right of return to the state of Israel inhering in each of the seven million Palestinians on whom international law confers refugee status...

...The commitment to an unlimited right of return compels Palestinians to reject recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people...President Abbas has refused to specify the number of refugees that he anticipates would choose to exercise a right to return to Israel.

...President Obama has been wrong: freezing construction beyond the 1967 borders, whatever one thinks of Israel’s settlement policy, is not the key to reinvigorating peace negotiations. The question of refugees, moreover, is much more than, as the president described it in his State Department speech, a “wrenching” issue. Palestinian dedication to a right, with no precedent under international law, inhering in seven million Palestinians to establish residence in the state of Israel has been and remains the overriding obstacle to a secure and lasting peace...


(Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was disappointed by President Barack Obama's comments on Israeli-Palestinian peace in his speech on the Middle East, a senior Israeli official said on Friday.

"There is a feeling that Washington does not understand the reality, doesn't understand what we face...The prime minister's tough response expresses the disappointment with the absence of central issues that Israel demanded, chiefly the refugee (issue)," he added.


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