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Responding to the question: "Do you believe that the Palestinians should be obliged to waive their right of home return in exchange for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the conclusion of a peace agreement with Israel ?", (89.8 %) answered "Palestinians shouldn't agree to that, even if the price would be the non-conclusion of an agreement with the Israelis", whilst only (6.8 %) said "Palestinians should agree to that", and (3.3 %) answered "I don't know". Read further: The mythical peace that is just out of reach
What does the peace settlement look like? We all know, what the peace settlement would look like, don't we? It would look like the Clinton Bridging Proposals, or it would look like the Geneva Accord, or it might even look like the reasonable proposal of Palestinian-American comedian Ray Hanania.
All of those proposals rest on three major principles:
1) The Palestinians give up the so-called "Right of Return" of the descendants of Palestinian refugees of 1948. They can live in the state of Palestine or abroad, or in limited numbers in Israel, but they do not have a "right" to return to Israel and they cannot come to Israel in unlimited numbers.
2) At least some parts of Jerusalem beyond the 1949 armistice line remain under Israeli sovereignty, including the old city Jewish quarter, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Gilo, Har Choma and other areas that are today Jewish neighborhoods.
3) The Palestinians recognize that Israel is the state of the Jewish people, just as the Jews recognize that Palestine is the state of the Palestinian Arab people.
Peace "optimists" tell us that the Palestinians leaders have really agreed or are secretly ready to agree to all these proposals and/or that polls show that the Palestinian people back these concessions. For example, a friend, a knowledgeable journalist, insisted to me that the Geneva initiative "has support from the Palestinian PLO establishment." In fact, Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the PLO, rejected the Geneva accord, as did the Israeli government. It is like saying that the Geneva initiative "has support from the Zionist establishment" since Yossi Beilin signed it. A minority of secondary leaders on both sides signed it, and they seem to have understood it differently. Some of the Palestinian signatories denied that it gave up the right of return.
The depressing fact is that all the polls of Palestinians and all the statements of the leaders and all the documents of the PLO and the Fatah have been fairly consistent in giving negative replies to all the issues. The one ray of hope is that some surveys show that the Palestinian people would be willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but only provided that Israel accept Right of Return and give up all of East Jerusalem. This review will focus primarily on the issue of Right of Return, because it is the issue most studied in the polls, and it is the Palestinian demand with the most devastating consequences for Israel. Surveys almost never ask about giving up parts of the West Bank or any part of East Jerusalem. Almost all the results that show Palestinians support a "two state" solution assume in the questions that the "solution" includes right of return, and Israeli concession of all territories taken in 1967, including all of East Jerusalem.
Palestinian Opinion on the Right of Return
Every poll of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza found that 80-90% insist on Right of Return for the refugees, no matter how the question was asked, and whatever the prospects for peace may have been at the time. For example a poll by PCPO in 2008:
Regarding the additional question:" Should the Palestinian leadership agree to the waiver of the Right of Home Return in exchange of the monetary compensation, would you accept or refuse that?" (89.5 %) answered "I would refuse that", whilst only (7.3 %) said "I would accept that", and (3.2 %) answered "I don't know".
Here is an An Najah university poll from 2006 regarding items in the Prisoner's letter. When asked about: "The need to ------- stress on the right of return and to cling to this right and to call on the international community to implement Resolution 194 which stipulates the right of the refugees to return and to be compensated," 52.4% strongly agreed and 39.7% agreed - over 90% in all.
IPCRI is the oldest Israeli-Palestinian dialog organization. Few people are more optimistic about peace than its co-director, Gershon Baskin. An IPCRI poll in 2001 asked refugees only about their views on Right of Return. A total of 98.6% strongly agreed or agreed that "Lasting peace in the Middle East is tied to the return of the refugees to their homes." A total of 98.7% strongly agreed or agreed that "Compensation is not an alternative to return." A total of 99.8% strongly agreed or agreed that "Return must be to exact places of original residence." Only 5.1% agreed or strongly agreed that "Family reunification can be considered return." Every survey in the West Bank and Gaza strip produced similar results.
Responding to the question: "Do you believe that the Palestinians should be obliged to waive their right of home return in exchange for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the conclusion of a peace agreement with Israel ?", (89.8 %) answered "Palestinians shouldn't agree to that, even if the price would be the non-conclusion of an agreement with the Israelis", whilst only (6.8 %) said "Palestinians should agree to that", and (3.3 %) answered "I don't know".
Read further: The mythical peace that is just out of reach