Tuesday, May 21, 2002

A friend of mine takes a night class that includes an Arab student from East Jerusalem and started to chat with him during a break. My friend's classmate (I'll call him Nafea) is an engineer who works for a German company with an operation in Ramallah (which is where his mother and sister live). Nafea is moderate, bourgeois, and educated (three things that a large segment of Palestinians are unfortunately not); I don't know Nafea's religion.

My friend carefully solicited his classmate's opinion on the "situation". Nafea approved of Arafat's rejection of the various Camp David proposals because the proposals did not resettle residents of Palestinian refugee camps into Israel's 1967 borders.

This points out what people like Prof. Tony Judt don't realize - that the Palestinian refugee (actually "refugee descendent") issue has a visceral resonance for Palestinians and remains the dealbreaker for future negotiations with Israel. Sari Nusseibeh is the only Palestinian official to publicly suggest that compromise is possible, and for this he was thoroughly castigated by the PA establishment.

Opinion polls of Palestinians should probably be taken skeptically (polls of Israelis often seem to contradict each other), but according to this one, a majority of Palestinians support attacks on Israeli civilians, a large majority oppose arresting terrorists, and also:

Seventy percent supported reconciliation with the Israeli people after reaching a peace agreement based on the establishment of a Palestinian state recognized by Israel.

It's likely that many Palestinians answered this question with the same gesture of flattery that Arafat uses when he calls for a ceasefire, but putting that aside, people should recognize that even the typical "moderate" Palestinian notion of "reconciliation following a peace agreement" still remains far, far away from a proposal that could be acceptable to Israelis or even fathomably constitute a stable solution.

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