Since the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, Arab leaders have repeated the mantra that peace with Israel hinges upon a withdrawal to the pre-1967 border. Yet it remains unclear whether the Palestinians will be satisfied with a homeland in the West Bank and Gaza following an Israeli withdrawal to the “green line.” Palestinian insistence on the refugees’ right of return, ending the Jewish majority in the State of Israel, indicates hostile intent.
Relations between Israel and its Palestinian and Arab neighbors are not dominated by the issue of disputed territory, but by the issue of the alleged right of return. The preservation of the refugee ethos through the media and the education system is intended to prevent concession on the right of return.
All Palestinian symbols and illustrations depict Palestine as the land from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. These illustrations do not show the Palestinian state as Gaza and the West Bank.
Western negotiators and Israelis tend to brush the refugee problem under the table, but for Arab societies surrounding Israel, the refugee issue is acute. Those who believe that the return of territory will bring peace must analyze and understand what is being said in the Arab media and on the Arab streets.
If a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan and Judea and Samaria (including Jerusalem) were to occur, Israelis would be bitterly disappointed to discover that the main problem between Israel and its neighbors – the problem of the State of Israel’s very existence – has not been solved.
The writer, a Begin-Sadat Center research associate, served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence.