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Moshe Dayan on the Right of Return of Palestinian Refugees and The Declaration of Palestinian State

Rhonda Spivak, December 31, 2012

I've been reading Moshe Dayan's book "BreakThrough-A Personal Account of the Egypt-Israel Peace Negotiations" and reflecting on what he wrote then in 1981 about the right of return of Palestinian refugees and a future Palestinian state, and on how so much of the logic of what he wrote arguably still applies today. At the time, Jimmy Carter and the Egyptians were pressuring for the creation of a Palestinian state to have come into existence then.

 In Dayan's mind, before a Palestinian state could conceivably come into existence, there ought to be "the permanent settlement in Jordan of the [Palestinian] refugees already there." (p 14.) He also proposed that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon "be offered the alternatives of remaining permanently in Lebanon or emigrating to another Arab country." (p.14). The same would apply for Palestinian refugees living in Syria

Specifically, Dayan says that the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees ought to be accomplished before any declaration of Palestinian statehood for the West Bank could occur:

"The present settlement of the refugees in the regions they now inhabited was to my mind also the answer to the problem of 'a Palestinian homeland.' If their present condition were to continue [remaining in UNWRA refugee camps] there would be mounting pressure to recognize the West Bank as their country. And if this became the Palestinian State while the refugees in Jordan and Lebanon remained unsettled, it would serve as a military, political and ideological springboard for the conquest of Israel and its conversion into 'Palestine.' To prevent this-and I assumed that even those in th e United States administration who favoured a Palestinian State in the West Bank would agree--the permanent settlement of the refugees in the lands where they were now resident should be accomplished before any declaration of Palestinian statehood for the West Bank.[emphasis added]. Unless this was done I envisaged the growth of three evils. A Palestinian State would be proclaimed even though it would be a 'non-State.' The refugee problem would remain. And the option to conquer Israel would be given a territorial basis, which would encourage and strengthen those who harboured this objective. [p 15]"

Again, in his book Dayan refers to the right of return:

Speaking of the Palestinians, I called attention to their slogans and to such declarations by Syria's President that "All the Palestinians shall return to their homes.' What would happen if they were indeed to return? They would not be satisfied with living in the comparatively small enclaves of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. There was not enough room and work for them there. They would stream into Israel, and this would be a demographic catastrophe for us. Some other solution would need to be found: they would have to be settled elsewhere.'

In effect events today have proven Dayan's point: the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state that occurred last week at the UN, done before the refugee issue has been dealt with, has not lead to any moderation in the Palestinian street, but has only "encouraged and strengthened those who harbour the objective of destroying Israel." We can see this with the fact that in Gaza, only days after the UN General Assembly accepted the PA President Abbas's bid for unilateral statehood, there were half a million Hamas supporters in the streets of Gaza, as Hamas leader Mashaal told cheering crowds, "Today is Gaza. Tomorrow will be Ramallah and after that Jerusalem, then Haifa and Jaffa,” as Ma'an News Agency reported.

Why are Gazans saying "Tomorrow will be Ramallah?" They know full well that on the ground Abbas's declaration of unilateral statehood at the UN has not lead to a strengthening of the notion of a two state solution, or to his standing among Palestinians. It's done the reverse--it has strengthened Hamas.

It's interesting to note that Abbas in Ramallah after declaring his state didn't get a half a million people out in the streets of Ramallah shouting "Today is Ramallah--Tomorrow is Gaza." Fatah doesn't expect to ever control Gaza again, and everyone knows it.

As Khaled Abu Toameh has written:

"Why did some Hamas leaders come out in public in support of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's request to the UN General Assembly to upgrade the status of the Palestinians to "Non-Member Observer State"?

"Because the Hamas leaders know that sooner or later the Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem will fall into their hands."

Hamas has not abandoned its dream of replacing Israel with an Islamic state, "from the river to the sea....

"' Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives even participated in Fatah celebrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip marking the "victory" at the UN General Assembly last Thursday.

"These representatives did not take part in the celebrations because they accept the two-state solution and are willing to live in peace alongside Israel.

"Nor did they take to the streets to express their joy over the upgrading of the status of the Palestinians at the UN.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad celebrated because they think that the UN has paved the way for the establishment of an Islamist state within the pre-1967 lines. Like many Palestinians, the two Islamist groups are confident that the countdown has begun for the creation of an Iranian-backed entity in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem."
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.