Saul Singer of the Jerusalem Post provides a sensible discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” in this contribution to National Review Online. Singer praises Ariel Sharon for insisting that the Palestinians give up their demand for “the right of return” to Israel as a pre-condition for further talks. This insistence is appropriate for two reasons. First, as a practical matter, if the Palestinians are not willing to give up the right to overwhelm Israel demographically, there can be no settlement. Second, Sharon’s position is not inconsistent with the “road map,” which requires as a first step that the Palestinians reiterate Israel’s right to exist. Such a “reiteration” is meaningless (think “Oslo”) unless the Palestinians renounce their “right” to flood Israel with refugees. As Singer puts it, “Either the Palestinians believe in two separate states or they do not.” If they don’t, then there is nothing to talk about.
Singer believes that if President Bush would get behind Sharon’s demand that the Palestinians drop their demand for the right of return, a genuine opportunity for “peacemaking” may exist. Perhaps, but to me this is different than a genuine opportunity for peace. The demand for the right of return reflects the Palestinian obsession with destroying the Jewish state. Any renunciation of that demand (like any renunciation of the underlying goal) would almost surely be merely strategic, and hence meaningless in the end. Even if the Palestinians were to drop their insistence on the right of return, and even if this led to a peace treaty and the creation of separate states, I doubt that Palestinian terrorism against Israel would diminish. Israel would just be less able to respond as effectively.
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