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The Future of the Palestinians

Walter Russell Mead

A third Intifada may be brewing in Jerusalem, but rhetorically at least, the head of the Palestinian Authority has made a few important concessions. (Or, depending on how one looks at it, acknowledgements of reality.) The Times of Israel reports:

Mahmoud Abbas assured Dutch Jews that he neither intends to abandon the Oslo Accords nor insist on the absorption of millions of Palestinians into Israel.

“We never said we were going to cancel the Oslo Accords,” Abbas said Friday during a meeting near The Hague with members of the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, or CIDI, Dutch Jewry’s main pro-Israel advocacy organ and watchdog on anti-Semitism.

“We are not going to cancel, we will not cancel anything,” he added, as long as “Israel respects its obligations.”

On September 30, at UN headquarters in New York, Abbas said: “We cannot continue to be bound by these signed agreements with Israel” because “the status quo cannot continue.”

At the meeting, Abbas also said he and the Palestinian Authority “never asked anyone to boycott Israel,” only products produced in the settlements. Asked about what Ramallah calls the “right of return” of several million Palestinians to what is today Israel proper, he said: “I am not asking for a right of return for six million Palestinians; I want a solution for them.”

Abbas is right: millions of Palestinians can’t and won’t return to Israel. But they need a solution. There won’t be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute until the international community develops a plan that will grant Palestinians passports, full rights of economic and political integration, and a mix of compensation and assistance to begin new lives. Even then, progress will be slow, as many Palestinians will prefer to remain in the “resistance” rather than accept this kind of solution.

But the Israel-Palestine problem is much bigger than simply drawing boundaries between Israeli and Palestinian states. It is about securing a peaceful and dignified future for both peoples. One of the reasons that the international peace process has made such slow progress is that the wider needs of the Palestinian people have never really been taken into account—and there can’t be a solution for the people of Israel unless there is also a solution for the people of Palestine.

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