Israel Report

April 2001         

No "Right of Return" to Sovereign State

April 11, 2001

It's quite remarkable how little note--much less alarm--is taken of routine calls for the destruction of Israel. This past weekend brought demonstrations in the Arab world and New York advocating the so-called "right of return" to Israel for Palestinian refugees. This claim has become something of a mantra repeated in virtually all Arab demands regarding Israel. The refugees at issue are Palestinians who fled Israel during the 1948 war and their descendants, a total population said to number as many as 5 million. Israel's population is 6.1 million, of which 5 million are Jewish. The inundation of Israel by 5 million refugees would be destructive to the country. Let's not mince words: The "right of return" is nothing more or less than Arab radicals' final solution for the Jewish state.

Like it or not, wars settle national boundaries. Ignoring such reality only brings grief. The world would tremble if Germany suddenly were to declare a sacred right of return for Germans to the vast areas of East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia lost in World War II. Danzig, once a Germanic free city and used by Hitler as an excuse to invade Poland, is Gdansk, which has figured so prominently in much of Polish history. You have only to recall from high school world-history classes the name Alsace-Lorraine to see how emotional and irrational territorial claims can help unleash war, death, economic devastation and great human misery.

It's worth mentioning here too that last summer Israel offered to give up more than 90 percent of the land it won in the 1967 defensive war. That generous offer was rejected by Yasser Arafat in favor of bloodshed. Moderate Arab nations were reported to have urged restraint on Arafat at a recent summit. But the mass media in even moderate Arab countries frequently broadcast and print misinformation, lies and worse about Israel. None offered vocal support for Israel's peace proposals last summer that would have created a Palestinian state with an economy intertwined with Israel's prosperity. Unfortunately, for more than a half century Arab governments have kept Palestinians herded in refugee camps and stoked their hatred of Israel.

So the "right of return" is just another form of rejection of Israel, camouflaged in high-sounding language. The Bush administration wisely has supported Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's insistence that the violence must stop before peace negotiations can resume. But the time has come for more than words from Washington to reaffirm America's commitment to a secure Israel and to reject the pernicious demand of a right to return. President Bush should make good his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Isreal to Jerusalem, confirming that this ancient city associated with Jews for three millennia is the capital of the modern Jewish state.

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