Why Palestinians should rethink calls for the right to return to homeland in Israel
The nearly three months of demonstrations by Palestinians along the Israel-Gaza border under the banner of the “March of Return”, which turned violent and has remained so thus far, is further evidence of how astray the Palestinians have been led, believing that there is still a prospect of refugees returning to their original homes in today’s Israel.
Moreover, even though the Palestinian leadership knows that the right of return can never materialise, the fact that they encouraged the mass of Palestinian youth behind this untenable goal not only raised false expectations but played directly into the hands of Israel’s right-wing parties.
As long as the Palestinians continue to insist on the right of return, they will never earn credibility in the eyes of most Israelis, who argue that the Palestinian demand for a two-state solution is only the first step in their march to wipe Israel off the map. And since they cannot do so by force, they opt for the demographic means through the right of return, which also explains the growing traction behind the one-state solution.
However, it would be illusionary to think that the Palestinian Authority or Hamas would agree to resolve the right of return first. They fear that by solving this issue first, they might lose their most important trump card, which will be to Israel’s advantage, and the peace process might end without the realisation of an independent Palestinian state.
Whereas such concern is justified because of Israel’s expansionist policy, the prospect of exercising the right of return is non-existent and the longer the Palestinians wait, the worse it becomes. The number of refugees is exponentially increasing without any prospect that the Israeli position will ever change.
Dr Alon Ben-Meir, Centre for Global Affairs, NYU