Sunday, August 28, 2005

New study of the 'Palestinian right of return'

Matthew Kalman, a freelance journalist and ex-Sunday Times correspondent based in Jerusalem, has recently written a paper on 'the Palestinian right of return in international law' from the Israeli perspective. He makes the point that the Israeli position has not changed since 1948, but that the Arab stance has shifted over the years.

In spite of objections from 'moderates' such as Professor Sari Nusseibeh of Al-Quds university that the 'right of return ' conflicts with the two-state solution, the Palestinian insistence on ' the right of return' has actually hardened in recent years. The Palestinians cite UN resolution 194 as the legal basis for their demand. Kalman points out that this resolution was passed before Israel became a member of the UN. Israeli jurists now consider it obsolete. Moreover, all Arab states voted against it at the time.

Interestingly, Kalman also points out that when UNWRA was first established, 17,000 Jews and 31,000 Arabs in Israel registered with the body, but they were soon absorbed.

The Israeli position is that the Arab refugees should be allowed a partial return, compensation and resettlement in a Palestinian state or other Arab states, while Jewish refugees should be compensated.

"The Jewish refugees from Arab countries were never offered, nor received, compensation for the property confiscated or left behind in the countries where they previously had lived. As the years passed without any sign of a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, successive Israeli leaders expressed the hope that the refugee issue might be considered settledby this mutual suffering of exile and loss of property. In 1965, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said that in a natural national environment, Israel had absorbed Jewish refugees from Arab countries to a total not less than the number of Arab refugees who left our territory, and from the legal point of view, it has thus perhaps already fulfilled its obligation."

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