Ending the Palestinian “Right of Return”
by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
January 17, 2012
The Israeli Supreme Court building in Jerusalem
Israel has two major reasons to fear this uncontrolled immigration. First, it presents a security danger. Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet security service, noted in 2005 that of 225 Israeli Arabs involved in terror against Israel, 25 of them, or 11 percent, had legally entered Israel through the family unification provision. They went on to kill 19 Israelis and wound 83; most notoriously, Shadi Tubasi suicide-bombed Haifa’s Matza Restaurant in 2002 on behalf of Hamas, killing 15.
Second, it serves as a stealth form of Palestinian “right of return,” thereby undermining the Jewish nature of Israel. Those 137,000 new citizens constitute about 2 percent of Israel’s population, not a small number. Yuval Steinitz, now the finance minister, in 2003 discerned in PA encouragement for family reunification “a deliberate strategy” to increase the number of Palestinians in Israel and undermine its Jewish character. Ahmed Qurei, a top Palestinian negotiator, later confirmed this fear: “If Israel continues to reject our propositions regarding the borders [of a Palestinian state], we might demand Israeli citizenship.”
In response to these two dangers, Israel’s parliament in July 2003 passed the “Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law.” The law bans Palestinian family members from automatically gaining Israeli residency or citizenship, with temporary and limited exemptions requiring the interior minister to certify that they “identify with Israel” or are otherwise helpful. In the face of severe criticism, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon affirmed in 2005 that “The State of Israel has every right to maintain and protect its Jewish character, even if that means that this would impact on its citizenship policy.”
Winston Churchill in 1939
Only 33 of 3,000 applications for exemptions, according to Sawsan Zaher, an attorney who challenged the law, have been approved. Israel is hardly alone in adopting stringent requirements for family reunification: Denmark, for example, has had such rules in place for a decade, excluding (among others) an Israeli husband from the country, with the Netherlands and Austria following suit.
Last week, Israel’s Supreme Court, by a 6-5 vote, upheld this landmark law, making it permanent. While recognizing the rights of a person to marry, the court denied that this implies a right of residency. As the president-designate of the court, Asher Dan Grunis, wrote in the majority opinion, “Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide.”
This pattern of Palestinian emigration toward Jews goes back almost to 1882, when European Jews began their aliyah (Hebrew for “ascent,” meaning immigration to the land of Israel). In 1939, for example, Winston Churchill noted how Jewish immigration to Palestine had stimulated a like Arab immigration: “So far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied till their population has increased.”
In brief, you didn’t have to be Jewish to benefit from the Zionists’ high standard of living and law-abiding society. One student of this subject, Joan Peters, estimates that a dual Jewish and Arab immigration “of at least equal proportions” took place between 1893 and 1948. Nothing surprising here: other modern Europeans who settled in underpopulated areas (think Australia or Africa) also created societies that attracted indigenous peoples.
Gay parade, Tel Aviv, 2010: how many Palestinians among them?
This pattern of Palestinian aliyah has continued since Israel’s birth. Anti-Zionist they may be, but economic migrants, political dissidents, homosexuals, informants, and just ordinary folk vote with their feet, preferring the Middle East’s outstandingly modern and liberal state to the PA’s or Hamas’ hell holes. And note how few Israeli Arabs move to the West Bank or Gaza to live with a spouse, though no legal obstacles prevent them from doing so.
The Supreme Court’s decision has momentous long-term implications. As Eli Hazan writes in Israel Hayom, “The court ruled de jure but also de facto that the state of Israel is a Jewish state, and thus settled a years-long debate.” The closing of the back-door “right of return” secures Israel’s Zionist identity and future.
Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2012 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Abbas needs to be replaced
by Efraim Inbar
The Jerusalem Post
January 16, 2013
A-little-noticed Reuters item published January 10 reported that Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, has rejected a conditional Israeli offer to let Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria resettle in the West Bank and Gaza, because it would compromise their “right of return” to homes in Israel lost during the 1948 War.
According to this report, Israel agreed to allow refugees’ descendants to resettle in Gaza and the West Bank on the condition they sign a statement waiving the right of return to Israel. Abbas rejected this condition and reportedly said: “It’s better they die in Syria than give up their right of return.”
This is nothing new; in the past, Palestinians have rejected attempts to alleviate the conditions of their refugees by resettling. They kept the refugees, and millions of their descendants, as a political card. Moreover, the refugees constitute an important element in their self-propagated image of victimhood and martyrdom.
Instead of helping his people in distress, Abbas, in the best Palestinian tradition, prefers to cling to the right of return – a demand that no Israeli government is ever going to accept. Moreover, most of the international community rejects this Palestinian demand, understanding that there is broad consensus in Israel against a mass influx of Palestinians that could destroy its Jewish character.
The Palestinians just missed another opportunity to demonstrate that they can behave in a constructive fashion and be of help to its people. Instead of pragmatic politics we see once again Palestinian adherence to radical goals that continues Palestinian suffering and that produces obstacles to peace.
Another recent display of such typical Palestinian preference was provided by Abbas, the “moderate,” when he addressed his countrymen on January 4. He avoided mentioning the land-for-peace formula, or the establishment of a Palestinian state beside Israel that could bring an end to the conflict and the suffering of his people.
He did not prepare his people for the need to make concessions for the sake of peace. Instead, Abbas stressed the perennial need to adhere to the path of struggle in order to realize “the dream of return” of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
The only explanation for this behavior is that the Palestinian national movement is very serious about the right of return, despite the attempts by pundits to propose that goodwill and Israeli territorial concessions can bring about a Palestinian flexibility on this issue. Dismissing Palestinian behavior and rhetoric, or belittling its importance in regard to the refugees amounts to putting your head in the sand. Unfortunately, the DNA of the Palestinian national movement contains the unrealistic demand for the right of return. Genetic engineering might be possible to induce some pragmatism, but it may take generations.
People do not give up easily upon their dreams.
This is why Abbas met Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas leader, in Cairo on January 10. Despite their fundamental ideological differences, they share the same dream – the destruction of the Jewish state. They may find a way to cooperate in an attempt to attain this objective, even if this could doom prospects for Palestinian statehood.
This explains why Abbas insists on not acknowledging that Israel is a Jewish state and on denying any links of the Jews to their ancestral homeland.
Abbas also takes measures to encourage armed struggle against Israel, even if they undermine the state-building efforts of the PA. He condoned at the end of December 2012 several parades of armed members of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the militia of Fatah, in honor of the anniversary of the founding of the Fatah movement.
Tolerant attitudes toward Palestinian terrorists run counter to the main litmus test of a state – the monopoly over the use of force. Turning a blind eye to the reemergence of armed groups in Palestinian society erodes the main achievement of the PA in recent years – the restoration of law and order following the formal dismantlement of militias.
The Palestinian armed groups may be tempted to engage in violent clashes with Israel that will turn out to be disastrous for the Palestinian self-determination and peaceful existence.
While promoting non-violence, Abbas is inciting to violence, in the apparent hope that a third intifada will bring better results than the second.
Abbas promised negotiations and moderation after the upgrading of the PLO to observer state status by the UN General Assembly in November 2012.
Instead, we get inflammatory rhetoric and irresponsible, self-defeating policies.
The Palestinians, like much of the Arab world, continue to be in urgent need of better political leadership to extricate them from pathological self-destructive behavior.
Efraim Inbar is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, the director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies and a fellow of the Middle East Forum.
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