Abu Mazen and the refugees II

Israel should recognize its own self interest in keeping the two-state idea alive.

By ASHER SUSSER
November 14, 2012 13:48
1 minute read.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas praying

PA President Mahmoud Abbas praying 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman)

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s early November comments on Israeli TV, on violence, borders and refugees, were unusual in their undisguised moderation.

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The Palestinian leader made three very important points: that as long as he is in office the Palestinians will not resort to force; that the right of refugee return to Israel proper is not a practical option, by noting that he himself has no intention of returning to live in his hometown, Safed; and that, as far as he is concerned, Palestine is the West Bank and Gaza within the confines of the 1967 boundaries, including East Jerusalem.

What lies beyond those lines is Israel, “now and forever”.

Though unusual, these positions are not radically different from statements made on occasion by Abbas (Abu Mazen) even when speaking to Arab audiences. In Gaza, in late 2002, at the height of the second intifada, Abbas criticized the use of force as a Palestinian mistake that would make the attainment of independence that much harder.

Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that in the closed internal Palestinian discussions during the negotiations with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008, Abbas explained to his colleagues that it would be unrealistic to expect Israel to accept a return of millions of Palestinian refugees that would dilute its Jewish character. There is, therefore, reason to believe that Abbas’s recent statements are genuine representations of his moderation and a full endorsement of the two-state solution as the end of conflict with Israel. Such interlocutors have been few and far between on the Palestinian side and Israel is unlikely to find such pragmatic Palestinian partners in the future.

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