May 10, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3828

Jordanian Columnist: The Right of Return Is An Unrealistic Demand

May 10, 2011
Jordan, Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 3828

Reacting to U.S. President Barack Obama's reported peace initiative for the Middle East, involving the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders but without the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Dr. Fahd Al-Fanek, former board chairman of the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai, cautioned the Palestinian Authority against rejecting such a plan, and urged it to understand that the right of return was an unrealistic demand.

Following are excerpts form his article:[1]

"When American president Barack Obama presents a plan for a comprehensive resolution to the Palestinian problem, the assumption is that the plan will be practicable, for he would not present it without first obtaining the approval of the Israeli side. The question is what the Palestinian side [will say].

"The solution Obama will present is the establishment of a Palestinian state within the June 5 [1967] borders (with mutually approved land-exchanges), on the condition that the right of return for Palestinian refugees worldwide be relinquished, and that [the Palestinians], be satisfied [with the proposal] that any [refugee] who wishes to return [may return] to the Palestinian state.

"There are those who say that the American-Israeli side would not propose this resolution if it did not know that the Palestinian Authority would reject it, and that if they thought the [Palestinian] Authority were prepared to relinquish the right of return in exchange for a state, they would not propose such a resolution.

"However, the realistic commentator is entitled to say that the Palestinian Authority's rejection of Obama's plan... means that the Palestinians will get neither a state nor the [right of] return – because the rejection of this paradigm does not mean that the Palestinians will [obtain the right to] return to [the lands] that have become Israel [i.e. the 1948 territories].

"It seems that the Palestinian Authority has hope, however small, that the refugees' right to return to Israel will [actually] be realized. But a realistic analysis must recognize that the [refugees'] return is impossible under the framework of a peaceful resolution, since Israel has no intention of [relinquishing its identity] as a Jewish state. Therefore, it would have to be defeated militarily before it [recognized] the right of return, which is not an option in the foreseeable future.

"As for the distant future, as time goes on, the return [of the refugees] will be less and less feasible, even if it becomes a formal possibility. Even now, no Palestinian in the diaspora under the age of 70 is [actually] familiar with Palestine. Moreover, most of the Palestinian villages to which [the refugees] demand to return no longer exist, and most of the Palestinians living in the diaspora have received foreign citizenship and settled in their countries of residence. We still remember how dozens of senior Palestinian officials for whom Yasser 'Arafat obtained the right of return, and for whom a farewell [ceremony] was held at the [Allenby] Bridge, came back to 'Amman within two weeks!

"At this opportunity, we must not forget [to mention] that the Arab [peace] initiative eliminated the right of return when it stipulated that it be approved by Israel, which is why, unfortunately, there is nothing left but [to accept] reparations."


[1] Al-Rai (Jordan), April 29, 2011.

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