Sari Nusseibeh 88 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Palestinians would be prepared to forgo the right of return for millions of refugees in return for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, including east Jerusalem and the Old City, Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh told The Jerusalem Post Sunday.
It would be a mistake to downplay the urgent need for a "destination" to go with the US 'Road Map' plan for peace in the Middle East, the former representative of the PLO in Jerusalem said. "Israelis have to give in on Jerusalem, and Palestinians, in return, have to make concessions on the right of return," he said.
Under Nusseibeh's formula, those refugees who wished to do so would be allowed to resettle in the new Palestinian state with compensation.
"In return for the right to independence and a sovereign Palestinian state, the Palestinians would be willing to make concessions on the right of return for refugees," Nusseibeh said. "Today we have to choose between the two, and that's why we must decide which right we want to give priority to.
"I believe we must give priority to independence and an independent Palestinian state in return for a partial right of return of refugees to their homeland. It's better than leaving them to suffer indefinitely in other countries."
Nusseibeh, the president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, said the Palestinians have had two approaches to dealing with negotiations with Israel. According to the first approach, he said, the Palestinians should go to the negotiating table with Israel without defining their end goals.
Nusseibeh said that strategy had been endorsed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"Abbas told me in the past that he doesn't want to put all the cards on the table," he said. "He was also referring to the right of return for the refugees. He said he was pragmatic about this issue, but wanted to see first what concessions the other side would make."
Nusseibeh said he had disagreed with Abbas's approach, arguing that the Palestinians should discuss a single package that would include all the important issues.
"His concept was based on the idea of waiting to see what the other side would offer," he said. "He said, 'Let's go to the negotiating table and bargain about everything.'"
According to Abbas's approach, Nusseibeh said, the Palestinians would insist on the principle of the right of return during the negotiations. Only after Israel made concessions, especially on the issue of Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem, would the Palestinians be prepared to stop insisting on the implementation of the right of return.
"But my suggestion has been that it's far better to put all the cards on the table in one package," he said. "The theme of the Palestinian leadership has changed, and we are now seeking a whole package."