I would like to take this time to repeat an often-tiring and inaccurate expression by Zionists. The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Remember this point.
And then I would like to say to the PA’s new point man in Jerusalem, Sari Nusseibeh, who is going around the talk circuit to renounce the legal right of return of Palestinian refugees, “thank you.”
As a result of Nusseibeh’s vocal “wisdom,” the Palestinian consensus on the right of return has never become more enthusiastic. Second, he has opened the door to a concept that Israel has been resisting: bi-nationalism.
Nussibeh claims to be politically naive. He says he is speaking for himself. But it doesn’t take rocket science to know that when you hold a position, or in this case, “an assignment,” personal opinions go right out the door. And he is President of Al Quds University, so he can’t be that naive. Nice try. But at least, he has won himself adoring fans among those who are not traditional friends of the Palestinians.
Yasser Arafat is a master chess player, and has outlived many leaders in the Middle East, so I am going to give Nusseibeh the benefit of the doubt — because Nusseibeh is most probably speaking for the PA and Arafat. Consider that despite cries for dismissals of Nusseibeh, Arafat has said and done nothing. No problem with the substance, apparently.
And, it seems that only the timing concerns some in the PA. Security guru, Jibril Rajoub said as much this past week. Others in the PA have said that the position on the right of return is clear and has not changed. And so the head games continue.
Perhaps, this could be a ploy to get Israel back to the negotiating table. Lord knows that the continuation of negotiations is the livelihood of the PA/PLO. The Oslo Accords were always about the survival of the PLO.
Perhaps, this could be a strategy of luring Israel into a bait é after all, they have made it clear that many settlements will remain and there is no going back to pre-1967 borders in any final deal. Israel would show itself for being the one who doesn’t want peace if they still insist on this after the Palestinians “give up” the right of return.
Maybe, the PA put Nusseibeh up to this to get the very reaction it is getting so that they can tell Israel, “No can do.” We’re democratic and we must follow the will of our people.
Hard to say. So far, the PA has demonstrated itself to be a lousy and corrupt leadership. They miscalculate Israel’s moves and they negotiate worse than first-time tourists in a Third World market. So, while they are figuring out their next step, maybe others can take Nusseibeh’s controversial remarks and turn them into an opportunity.
This leads Palestinians and Israelis to finally have a meaningful debate about . . . A democratic bi-national state.
It is the only moral solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, which resulted from Israel’s creation in 1948. After all, what sort of message does the world send out when people who have been forced out of their homes are told that the solution to their problem is to make a home somewhere else? Where is the accountability of the wrongdoers? Where is the principle of repatriation for Palestinians as it is applied to every other refugee group around the world?
Nusseibeh repeats the Israeli argument that the return of Palestinian refugees will change the Jewish character of the Israeli State. But that fact is supposed to change in 2035 anyhow when Arabs inside Israel are expected to become the majority.
And I would like to raise one interesting thought recently raised by a Jewish acquaintance. He said, “As long as there is a state which describes itself as ‘the state of the Jewish people,’ I cannot feel fully secure as a Jew elsewhere, and it is in my immediate interest to challenge this. The dispossession of the Palestinian people and the suppression of Palestinian rights was a by-product of this attempt to accommodate anti-Jewish racism.”
We should capitalize on this renunciation by Sari Nusseibeh, and not loathe the words nor him. In all likelihood, a viable Palestinian state is unlikely to happen since Israel is the negotiating partner. There has been no indication that the air space will be free or that closures would stop indefinitely. The Oslo interim period was a good indication of the desire for continued Israeli control over most every facet of Palestinian life. They don’t want to dismantle all of the settlements/colonies, which have made physical separation impossible. They are expected to have major control over water é the giver of life.
And let us not forget Israeli security. Two words that have never been realized by the Israelis throughout all of the sadistic measures they have wrought on the Palestinians. Two words which can always be used as justification to disrespect Palestinian sovereignty and security. The Israelis have already said that any future Palestinian state must be demilitarized. This concept may have won some Palestinian support initially, but the Intifada proved that Palestinians must have the capability to defend themselves. So, the Israelis leave little alternative but a one-state solution.
They say Palestinians miss every opportunity. But it is the Israelis who are pushing the two peoples far sooner to the very thing they resist: a bi-national state. Perhaps, it is they who are missing the opportunities. In fact, their miscalculations have resulted in a the creation of a superb opportunity, an opportunity which would right the many wrongs resulting from the dispossession of Palestinians.
And thank you, Sari, for allowing bi-nationalists to re-raise the issue and possibly take it out of the hands of those who have proven their inability to lead.
Note: The word “Israelis” is used generically to connote the majority of Israeli Jews. Nonetheless, there is a small but growing minority of Jews in Israel who support bi-nationalism.
Sherri Muzher is a Palestinian-American activist, lawyer, and freelance journalist.