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May 12, 2020 1:14 pm

Ex-Israeli MK on Palestinian Refugees: Arab World Moving On, but West Still Indulging Return Fantasy

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Palestinian refugees in 1948. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The greatest tragedy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is that while the Arab world is moving on from the war against the Jewish state, the West is still encouraging Palestinian rejectionism by giving legitimacy to a fictitious “right of return” that would flood Israel with millions of refugees, a former Knesset member said on Tuesday.

Einat Wilf — who with journalist Adi Schwartz is co-author of the new book The War of Return — made the statement during a Zoom event to discuss the book, which holds that the main obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace is not land but rather the Palestinian insistence on a right of return.

The book posits that this “right” essentially does not exist anywhere in international law and in fact violates international norms regarding the treatment of refugees everywhere else in the world.

The Palestinians, however, show no sign of giving up on the right of return, because it is the one way they may still be able to convert Israel into an Arab state by sheer weight of demographics, the authors argue.

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Nonetheless, said Wilf and Schwartz, they remained somewhat optimistic, because they have seen how other refugee groups — such as Germans expelled from Poland and Muslims and Hindus from India and Pakistan — eventually renounced their irredentist claims and moved on.

Unfortunately, Wilf said, the Western world — particularly in the form of the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA — is indulging the fantasy of a return even as the Arab world is hoping to put the issue behind it.

“Much of the tragedy of what’s happening at this moment is that you’re beginning to hear voices in the Arab world — not among Palestinians  — but in the Arab world, Saudi [Arabia] and the Gulf, who are saying these things,” Wilf said. “Who are beginning to say, the Palestinians have made a mess of things, they made a mistake.”

“The way they’re speaking, no Westerner would dare speak,” she asserted. “They’re saying very hard truths: That it’s over. That it’s time to move forward.”

“The tragedy is that as the Arab world is slowly moving away from their support for the Palestinian vision that the war of 1948 is not over and could still be undone, we have Western countries giving a billion dollars to UNRWA, thereby continuing to fuel the Palestinian vision that the war is still ongoing, that there’s still refugees, and that the outcome of 1948 could still be rolled back,” Wilf noted.

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