During a fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip in June 1949, a senior British official was surprised to discover that while the Palestinian refugees “express no bitterness against the Jews (or for that matter against the Americans or ourselves), they speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states. ‘We know who our enemies are,’ they will say, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes.”
Fifty-six years later the Palestinians have rewritten their national narrative into an unblemished story of victimhood that makes Israel, rather than Arab states, the sole culprit of the “catastrophe,” as Palestinians call the collapse and dispersal of their society during the 1948 war. This narrative has led Palestinian leaders to demand a right of return, for the descendants of those displaced in 1948, to territory that is now part of Israel proper.
The Arab states vehemently opposed UN Resolution 194 (passed on December 11, 1948) and voted unanimously against it. This, however, did not prevent Arabs and Palestinians from transforming the resolution into the cornerstone of an utterly spurious legal claim to a right of return, which in their internal discourse is invariably equated with the destruction of Israel through demographic subversion.
To insist on the full implementation of the right of return indicates that, in the Palestinian perception, peace is not a matter of adjusting borders and territory but rather a euphemism for the annihilation of the Jewish state.
One therefore hopes that in his upcoming meeting with Abbas (slated for the end of May), George W. Bush will inform the Palestinian leader in no uncertain terms of his unequivocal and non-negotiable rejection of the right of return – which, after all, negates the vision of two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian, living side by side.
Until Palestinian leaders renounce the right of return, there is every reason to believe that it is a one, not two, state solution they have in mind.