The things to be concerned about, that is.
This morning’s Jerusalem Post carried an exclusive by Khaled Abu Toameh regarding a new PA "plan" — drawn up by high-ranking Fatah member and PA Deputy Minister for Prisoner Affairs Ziad Abu Ein — to implement the "right of return" for Israel’s 60th celebrations.
The plan — called the "Initiative of Return and Coexistence" — proposes that the two-state negotiations be abandoned in favor of "all living together."
It calls for Palestinian refugees everywhere to converge on Israel by land, sea and air, on May 14, carrying UN flags and their UNRWA ID cards (which theoretically certify them as refugees). They are supposed to bring their suitcases, and tents so that they can settle down in the towns and villages they (actually their parents and grandparents) came from sixty years ago — never mind that these places no longer exist.
Neighboring Arab states are supposed to open their borders so the "refugees" can get out and make their way to Israel, and Arab states are asked to contribute to costs. The UN secretary-general and other world leaders are asked to support this effort, which calls upon the refugees to abandon terrorism and "live in peace" with their Israeli neighbors (yea, sure).
And Ramallah is said to be in favor.
You read this, and you said, "Oi vey!" or some equivalent thereof. A most worrisome scenario, one would think.
When I checked with representatives of the prime minister’s office and the Foreign Ministry today, I encountered a very relaxed attitude. Who knows if this is even true, they responded.
My most knowledgeable source regarding events within the PA advised me that the plan has indeed been proposed but that Fatah is "too tired," they haven’t the energy to pull off anything like this. However, said my source, if Iran, perhaps, should decide to make this happen, and energize it, it might be different. I will add that there might also be other outside energizing forces.
So? Does this get taken seriously? As to actually having the hordes of refugees attempt entry into the country, I am assuming that intelligence would secure information of preparations in advance, and would respond appropriately. It wouldn’t be pretty, but we wouldn’t have millions of purported refugees suddenly within our borders.
But there’s another factor to be considered, and another motivation for what they are talking about: They are out to embarrass us, and make us uncomfortable, and bring us down a few more notches in public opinion, by threatening this. The poor refugees. After all these years, still denied the right to go "home." They are masters at this.
We are, sadly, not masters, as has been demonstrated time and again. Now is the time to make clear that the demands are not legitimate — to call upon experts in international law who will explain that there is no such thing as a right of return, and to put on the agenda of the international community the need to find an equitable solution for these "refugees." Now is the time to point a finger at the oil-rich Arab states that have donated only very modest sums to UNRWA for support of their fellow Arabs — the very rich Arab states who gladly allowed them to wallow in misery.
UNRWA, of course, bears enormous responsibility for the current situation. UNRWA, whose mandate says that these refugees remain refugees until they return to Israel (even if they have citizenship elsewhere). UNRWA, who has allowed these people to hang in limbo for three and now four generations, and who has told them that they have this right and that Israel prevents them from exercising it.
In a nutshell: UNRWA, which is responsible for the Palestinian refugees, works with rules that are different from the rules of the High Commission for Refugees, an agency that handles all of the refugees of the world except the Palestinians. Only the Palestinians are so special that they get their own agency and their own rules. The High Commission has a practice of getting refugees settled as quickly as possible — in the nation of origin if possible, but if not possible, elsewhere. They solve refugee situations. UNRWA not only sustains their refugee population, but has allowed it to grow (to over 4 million now) because descendants are counted, as are those who have new citizenship elsewhere.
The "right to return" is based on General Assembly resolution 194, which says, among other things, that "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date." This, the claim is made, is the basis in international law for the "right.”
There is just a small catch: General Assembly resolutions are considered to be recommendations only, they have no standing in international law. Only security council resolutions do.
What is more, when this resolution passed in 1948, the Arab states voted against it because it mentions Israel and they refused to acknowledge the existence of Israel. Oh irony!
"[The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: ‘We desire death like you desire life.’"
So said Hamas MP Fathi Hammad on an Al Aqsa (Hamas) TV broadcast of February 29.
"…they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly…"
MEMRI has captured this and provided translation . I encourage you to see this for yourselves at: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1710.htm
You can order the clip, or view a transcript, as well as viewing Hammad on the MEMRITV site.
Bookmark this particular MEMRI site, please , and share the URL broadly. The next time we are accused of wantonly killing civilians, reference should be made to this. In this way each of you can be an emissary on behalf of Israel — writing letters to the editor citing this, and telling those who do not understand.
(MEMRI — Middle East Media Research Institute — is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that "bridges the language gap between the West and the Middle East.")
MEMRI captured yet another Palestinian speaking on TV on March 9. This time it was Qadura Fares, former PA minister and close confident of Marwan Barghouti, speaking about the massacre at Mercaz Harav. He said: "The Fatah movement does not denounce this kind of operation, and the Palestinian people has the right to conduct resistance against the occupation."
Mark well this statement from a member of the "moderate" Palestinian faction.
Fatah officials announced today that they were ready to begin a dialogue with Hamas, if Hamas accepts the Yemeni initiative for reconciliation. A major Hamas official later said that his group did accept it, but it is still a bit unclear a
s to precisely what Hamas has agreed to. The initiative calls for returning Gaza to its status before the Hamas takeover and for early elections. It further calls for a unity government similar to what was forged at Mecca and security forces built on a national basis (meaning incorporating members of both groups).
This, just possibly, could be Abbas’s answer to being squeezed by Rice, who demands that he sit with Israel while there are Israeli operations against Hamas in Gaza; it could save him from his increasingly weak position. And this may suit Hamas exceedingly well right now, as well: It would gain legitimacy and see the end to the siege of Gaza. The fact that Hamas was willing to talk about a ceasefire means it, too, is hurting.
Both groups now have delegations in Yemen and will be meeting with Yemen officials separately.
Big stuff. Let’s see…
It should be noted here that in a poll just taken , Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas) would beat Mahmoud Abbas (Fatah) if elections for president were held in Judea and Samaria, and Gaza, now.
Olmert is holding tight in the face of the expressed concerns of US Ambassador to Israel Richard Jones regarding building in eastern Jerusalem. I find particularly charming the Jones statement that: "It is not easy for either side to move ahead when they see the provocative behavior of the other side." Notice the fine, even handed balance that equates support for a terrorist massacre by the PA with building housing units for Jews in eastern Jerusalem.
In a statement to the press, with regard to the building of more housing units in Har Homa, Olmert said, "Everyone knows that there is no chance that the State of Israel will give up a neighborhood like … Har Homa. It is an inseparable part of Jerusalem."
To which Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared, "This is totally unacceptable."
Livni and Qurei were supposed to re-start peace talks today, but after Qurei heard about Olmert’s remarks regarding Har Homa, he downgraded the meeting to "unofficial," saying the Palestinians would not agree to Israel adding a "single brick" to eastern Jerusalem.
John McCain is here and has been welcomed very warmly.
So is German Chancellor Angela Merkel here on an historic visit, which I’d like to discuss in some more detail tomorrow.
Also, tomorrow, if time and space allow , more on our relationship with the Arabs living in Israel.