Neogitiate for Peace and Justice with Fatah and Hamas, Palestinians in Israel,
Palestinian Refugees, and Displaced Persons
Negotiate with existing Palestinian Political Leaders
South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu stated recently that “Israel and other parties have no choice but to talk to Hamas,” because the party was fairly and democratically voted into power in 2006, and now controls the Gaza Strip – an essential part of Palestine.
Gideon Levy wrote this in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “Gaza has an established authority that seized power democratically and then forcibly, and proved it has the power to control the territory. That, in itself, isn’t bad news after a period of anarchy. But Israel and the world don’t like Hamas. They want to overthrow it, but their diabolical scheme isn’t working out. The two-year siege and boycott that included starvation, blackouts and bombardments have produced no sign that Hamas is weaker. On the contrary: The ceasefire was violated first by Israel with its unnecessary operation of blowing up a tunnel.
“What everybody already knew to be false – that the political choice of a people could be changed through violence, that the Gazans could be made into Zionists by being abused – was tried anyway. Now we have to finally change direction, to do what nobody has tried before, if only because we have no other choice.”
Meanwhile, for its part, Hamas has indicated a willingness to talk. The Xinhua news agency recently reported this: Hamas is prepared to deal ‘positively’ with U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East peace plan, according to a top political aide to Ismail Haniyeh, the organization’s prime minister. ‘We have an initial readiness to accept it and deal with it positively, but we will also reject it if it doesn’t include an American recognition of Palestinian rights,’ said Yousef Rizka. The official indicated that endorsement of Palestinian statehood, with Jerusalem as its capital is essential.
Accept a legitimate one- or two-state solution
The basic elements required for any kind of lasting peace have been known for a long time:
- One secular state with equal rights for everyone, including Jews, Christians and Muslims.
- Two states – Israel, and a contiguous, sovereign Palestine. This means Israel must withdraw from all the land occupied since 1967, with the only exceptions being mutually acceptable land swaps. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank must be joined so that one, unified state is possible. This also means that the resulting Palestinian state must control its own borders, including water and air space. If the Palestinian state is demilitarized, a multi-national UN force should enforce a prohibition against incursion by Israeli troops without international approval.
- A two-state solution also means East Jerusalem must be “released” by Israel so that it can serve as the capital of Palestine. Israel claimed Jerusalem for itself by annexing the eastern portion of the city, following its conquest in the 1967 war. In the meantime, it is literally trying to squeeze the Palestinians out by starving their institutions of funds and refusing to issue building permits for new structures or improvements in older ones.
Give Palestinians within Israel fully equal rights
- Currently, 20 percent of Israeli citizens (1.4 million) are Arabs/Palestinians, but discrimination against them is pervasive. The towns in which they live are often “unrecognized” or receive vastly less investment than Jewish towns and institutions. For example, only 3 percent of the land in Israel is owned by Palestinians; permits are rarely granted to Arab families to expand their housing; and most Jewish towns and neighborhoods remain off-limits. And since its founding in 1948, Israel has operated an education system almost entirely segregatedbetween Jews and Palestinians.
- A report published in March revealed that the government invested $1,100 in each Jewish pupil’s education compared to $190 for each Arab pupil. The gap is even wider when compared to the popular state-run religious schools, where Jewish pupils receive nine times more funding than Arab pupils. There is also an officially declared shortfall of more than 1,000 classrooms for Arab children, though Arab organizations believe the problem is in reality much worse. In addition, a significant proportion of existing Arab school buildings have been judged unsafe or dangerous to children’s health.
Acknowledge the rights of displaced persons
An estimated 71 percent (7.6 million) of the worldwide Palestinian population
(10.6 million) were forcibly displaced from their homes in 1948-49 when Israel was created (81%) or following the 1967 (“six-day”) war (13%). Of these, about 7.1 million are living in other countries (primarily Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia), although still within 62 miles of Israel or the Occupied Territories (where their original homes were located).
Less than half of the total refugee labor force in major Arab host countries is economically active, primarily because only Jordan grants Palestinians full citizenship rights, and their host countries are poor and cannot easily absorb them.
According to international law, refugees (both those who were personally forced off their land and their descendants) have the right to return to their homes of origin and receive property restitution and compensation for losses and damages. The UN General Assembly set forth the framework for resolving the Palestinian refugee situation in UN Resolution 194, which mandates repatriation for those refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors,” or compensation for those choosing not to return. On Nov. 22, 1974, Resolution 3236 clarified the right to return as an “inalienable right.”
While it is fair to say that most observers and negotiators do not expect Israel to absorb all 7.6 million of these displaced persons, even if they all wanted to return, it is critical that Israel acknowledge the wrong that was done them and its role in their displacement. Only then can negotiations begin regarding some combination of resettlement and compensation.
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