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REFUGEES? LET’S GET REAL

Since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, the Arab refugee claim has remained a core excuse for the Arab nations to postpone recognizing Israel and moving on to some type of normal existence in the region.

Until the 1967 Six Day War, Pan-Arabist dreamers, under the illusions of Gamal Abd el Nasser still believed that the Arabs would unite and be able to push the Jews into the sea. But since, they have realized their great disappointment (or “Naksa”), when they lost their hope of eliminating the uninvited non-Muslim state in their midst. Not only did the Jews succeed in surviving their enemies’ plans, but the Jewish army took control of the holy city of Jerusalem and the areas to its north and south, historically known as Judea and Samaria, now called “the West Bank” by some.

To recap the history of the  “refugee” situation, it first occurred as a result of Israel’s first war in 1948. Some 750,000 Arab residents fled areas in which the Jewish state had been formed. For the most part, the well-to-do leadership voluntarily left the area of conflict out of their own desire to take their wealth to safer pastures. The remaining bulk of those who moved did so mainly under the call of the Arab leadership, who advised them to stay clear of the war effort and promised them they could return after the Jews were defeated. Some also fled out of fear that they would be considered loyal to the enemy by the victorious Jewish army.

Blaming one side or the other for sixty five years has neither comforted those uprooted, nor brought about any type of permanent solution for them. It’s hard to argue against the fact that the policy of the neighboring Arab states has been to perpetuate the suffering of the refugees and all their offspring indefinitely as a means of blemishing Israel’s image. This conduct is should not be excused by the international community.

Since WWII, tens of millions of people, if not more, have lost their homes and been displaced as a result of wars and conflicts around the world. These people have been absorbed by and received citizenship in their countries of residence. There is no other situation in the world today in which refugee status is passed down to the second, third and fourth generations of those who were originally displaced. Again, this type of double standard is unacceptable.

Let us remember that it was not just the Arab residents of what is now Israel who were displaced in the founding years of the Jewish state, but some one million Jewish citizens of Arab countries were forcibly run out of Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, among others. These Jewish refugees left behind their properties and wealth. Most of them were taken in by Israel, where they rebuilt their lives. They have never been recognized as refugees by the international aid associations, and were never paid any damages by the countries who displaced them.

According to UNRWA, a total of 5 million qualify to be recognized as Palestinian “refugees” today. Talk of negotiations between Israel and the PLO and the issue of the refugees may give the impression that these negotiations are meant to find some way to resettle the descendants of those who fled at Israel’s founding.  But in fact, in 2011, it was revealed that even PLO chief Abu Mazen acknowledged that at the very most, Israel could be expected to admit no more than 100,000. Israeli negotiators are aiming for no more than 5000 over the course of five years.

Bringing five million people into the areas under PA control is highly unrealistic – not only due to limited physical accommodations as far as housing, water and electric infrastructure, but also realizing that the Palestinian Authority has not the means to provide work for its population today. As it is, residents of the PA areas are barely getting by on minimum wage, at $560 a month. How could anyone expect them to multiply their population by four?

In retrospect, 65 years in limbo was a means of advancing the goals, not of those people themselves, but of others. Behind the headlines and slogans, the best either side might accomplish for the five million UNRWA refugees is to help them financially resettle elsewhere, away from both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

If this is the case, what are they waiting for?

All individuals born in refugee camps in the countries surrounding Israel should be granted citizenship in the countries they were born in immediately. Accepting the reality, UNRWA and all of the donor states should put into motion a program to resettle all of the residents of the refugee camps in other locations around the world. There is no reason to wait for results of endless negotiations that are not really dealing with a solution for this problem anyway.

HE MEANS THE JEWS!

Relaunching talks between Israel and the PLO chief Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas)

Many questions arise as these negotiations begin. What is the real goal of the “Two State Solution”? What does Abbas mean when he repeatedly declares,

“no Israelis will live in the future Palestinian state”? Why is Israel releasing 104 terrorist prisoners convicted of murdering Israeli citizens? Why is the Obama administration pushing Israel to concede to the PLO, and how does that relate to its impotency in the face of the extreme suffering and human rights violations in other Middle East countries?

Obviously, Israel exists in a reality totally unique in the world, in regard to the continuing threats both outside and inside its borders. Within its tiny geographical domain, it is the world’s only Jewish state, founded after a two thousand year exile, during which the Jewish people wandered from one land of persecution to another. In short, the countries of the world collectively had a very bad record on showing kind hospitality to the countryless Jews.

Some one hundred and fifty years ago, modern Zionism brought Jews together to devise a practical plan to establish an independent Jewish country. Thoughts of planting the new state in lands other than the historical homeland were considered by some, but quickly recognized as unviable. The unprecedented gathering of an exiled and dispersed nation could only take place if they were allowed to gather in the ancient homeland to which they dreamed and prayed to return.

At the time, Egypt was the only country in the region independent of the Ottoman Empire. The remaining lands of what are now considered the Middle East and North Africa were all administered by the Turks and were not divided by the borders nor represented by the countries we know today.

The impression that Israel is occupying “Palestinian” lands is incorrect. A Palestinian country did not exist in these lands, prior to its coming under Israel’s control. As a result of the 1967 Six Day War, Israel did capture Jerusalem, Samaria and Judea – not from Palestine, but rather, from Jordan. It is true that the PLO was established in Jerusalem in 1964, some three years before Israel’s defensive acquisition of these lands in 1967. Obviously, the agenda of the PLO was not to free lands from Israel which it did not even possess. Its mission then, as now, is to replace Israel on all of its land from the river to the sea. This is not a deeply concealed secret. It is taught in PLO and UNRWA schools and is proudly presented on maps and official emblems of the PLO and its branches.

The mission of the PLO is and always has been denial of the right of the Jewish people to their own county in their historical homeland. PLO spokespeople and negotiators are always very clear not to utter the words “Israel” and “Jewish State” together as one identity because they refuse to accept that it has any valid claim whatsoever. If you pay attention to the PLO narrative, you will notice that the Two State concept includes a Palestinian state with no Jews, alongside a binational state for all of its residents, regardless of their nationality. The Jewish state does not exist in the PLO concept.

Readers should take note that a Two State Solution was already implemented by the British in 1946, when they divided the area of the mandate and allocated two thirds of it to establish the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as a gift to the son of their Bedouin friend from Mecca. A second Two State Solution was set into motion in 2005, when the Israeli government removed all Israeli communities and interests from the Gaza region. Unfortunately for the PLO functionaries, the people of Gaza elected the Islamic Hamas in their place as government, and the PLO was thrown out right after the Jews.

And now on the table again for the third time, we have the Two State Solution. As Abbas states very clearly, his vision is to have no Israelis in the future Palestinian state. He means Jews! As a precondition of taking part in any discussions, he demanded that over a hundred convicted terrorist murderers be freed from Israeli prisons. Is there a statement that could better express the cheapening of the blood of Jews than that of letting their murderers walk free?

Next, he says that no Israelis will be allowed to live in the country he wishes to establish. This doesn’t sound very peaceful. Today there are about 750,000 Israelis who live in the areas that Abbas would like to see as his future state. That is between 25 – 30% of the total population, depending on how you count. East of the 1967 Green Line, in the area that Abbas sees as a future binational state, 20% of the population are Arabs. Why should the envisioned “peace-loving Palestinian state” be closed to Jews? Why would the suggestion of expelling 750,000 people from their homes be considered a legitimate narrative in international discourse?

But the truth is that it is unfeasible. The number of Jewish residents in Jerusalem, Samaria and Judea has passed critical mass. The state of Israel was founded in 1948, with a total Jewish population of 600,000, and it survived the combined efforts of seven Arab armies to wipe it off the map. Today the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria (or “the West Bank,” if you like) is greater than the entire population of Israel on the day of its modern founding. The Jewish communities (or “settlements,” if you like) are permanent fixtures in the scenery here, with million dollar homes, shopping centers, schools, playgrounds and a full-fledged university. These are not things that can be packed away on moving trucks.

Abbas knows that he is stuck with us; the time has come for him to figure out how to live with us.

Is Abbas the last Palestinian Authority president? by Mudar Zahran

After Israel’s most recent military operation in Gaza, which ended with a cease-fire, Hamas has been claiming victory and enjoying popularity with the Palestinians, which comes as a setback for Hamas’s rivals; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah faction.

With Hamas popularity on the rise, Abbas was left with one desperate option to boost his image: pressing his quest for UN recognition of Palestine as an independent state.

Still, Abbas has other problems in his own house; there is friction within Abbas’s Fatah, as Abbas’s rival, Muhammad Dahlan, is still very influential and has a huge following.

Dahlan was a senior member of the Fatah Central Committee and the chief of the Palestinian Preventive Security Service. For years, he served as the main Palestinian counterterrorism coordination figure with Israel.

Abbas’s Fatah managed to expel Dahlan in June 2011 following allegations by Abbas that Dahlan had murdered Arafat using poison.

Dahlan lives in exile now, but he has the money and the followers to disrupt Abbas nonetheless, if not necessarily to topple him. It is not unlikely that rivalry between Abbas and Dahlan would evolve into further friction between their followers should Abbas exhibit further signs of weakness or step down.

In addition, the Arab Spring has drawn attention from the Palestinian cause as a whole and from Abbas as the poster child for the Arab-Israeli conflict; the media now has Syria, Egypt and other hot-spots to cover over Abbas’s heart-felt speeches, or his meetings with world leaders.

As a result, Palestinians in the West Bank are no longer seeing Abbas in the international media, or mingling with world leaders, and are therefore focusing more on their miserable living conditions, which, as revealed by a recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 70 percent of them believe are due to PA corruption.

Last October, prominent Israeli political scholar and Arabist Mordechai Kedar told a crowd in London that “the biggest victim of the Arab Spring is the Palestinian cause, as the world’s media is no longer occupied with it” – and with the fading significance of the Palestinian cause goes Abbas’s own significance.

Adding to Abbas’s woes is that the Palestinians in the West Bank do not seem to be too enthusiastic about his quest to gain UN recognition for Palestine as an independent state.

While Abbas’s UN stunt succeeded – Palestine is now an observer state in the UN – its very success could cause Abbas’s disappearance from the political scene, because the Oslo peace agreement requires the Palestinians to not unilaterally seek international recognition as a state, and therefore Abbas’s stunt gives Israel the full legal right to end Oslo altogether.

BUT SAY he does disappear, due to a “Palestinian Spring,” a coup by his rivals or even retirement – the man is 77 after all – would the PA survive? First of all, the PA is not favored within its own jurisdiction, as confirmed by the above-mentioned poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. In 2005, renowned scholar Daniel Pipes reported Palestinians under the PA were already saying that “Israel’s hell was better than Arafat’s paradise,” and considering that Arafat had much more credit with the Palestinians than does Abbas, one can only imagine how Palestinians would view a PA without even Abbas.

In fact, a 2011 poll conducted by Pechter Middle East Polls in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations, when asked if they preferred to become a citizen of Palestine, with all of the rights and privileges of other citizens of Palestine, or a citizen of Israel, only 30 percent chose Palestinian citizenship.”

True, Abbas’s second in command, Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, has a reputation for transparency and decency, but since Abbas appointed him in June 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council has not confirmed his appointment. It is therefore, unlikely he would be able to secure the presidency.

With no heir apparent for Abbas, who could secure public support and control the various military factions? With the PA’s reputation for corruption and the disapproval of it among the Palestinian public, it is possible that the PA’s future will be in jeopardy if Abbas steps down, quits, or retires.

While there are a few who argue that the West Bank should be handed to the Hashemite regime in Jordan, King Abdullah faces his own domestic challenges. Despite the media’s low coverage of unrest in Jordan, there is an on-going, relentless public call to topple the Hashemite regime. Those hoping the Jordanian regime could play a future role in the West Bank ignore the possibility that the Hashemite regime itself might not exist in the near future.

It is about time those concerned with peace and regional stability start considering contingency plans for a West Bank without Abbas, and possibly even without the Palestinian Authority. There is much to consider, and not necessarily as much time.

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