Thursday, October 16, 2003

There was something fishy about Beilin-Abed Rabbo's "solution to the refugees issue" as reported in the initial descriptions of the "plan".

Now it's clearer what's actually going on: At Taba, the Palis strenously attempted to force their interpretation of UN General Assembly resolution 194 as the basis for dealing with the refugees of 1948 and their descendents (despite the non-binding nature of the resolution and other issues). As described in this important article, Beilin essentially consented by presenting some draft language which included the text "The realization of the aspirations of the Palestinian people, as recognized in this agreement, .... the comprehensive and just solution for the Palestinian refugees, based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, providing for their return". In a laughable attempt at consideration for Israeli interests, Beilin also included language that stated that the "return" will preserve the Jewish identity of Israel and that the influx of refugees would be limited to a specific but unspecified number of returnees. (See here for Beilin's response to Ari Shavit's article)

According to this report, (by Akiva "it's all our fault" Eldar), the still-secret "Geneva documents" address the refugee issue along the same lines, but with some significant differences.

First, since the notion of a Palestinian "right of return" to pre-67 Israel is anathema to the Israeli public (as is the explicit reference to UNGAR 194), the new documents don't mention them, but instead they (or rather their Palestinian interpretation) are incorporated into Article 7:

Second, the stipulations about retaining the Jewish character of Israel and capping the number of "returnees" are still present. Thus far, the contradictions of the Taba proposal are still present. But a single sentence seems to resolve everything in Israel's direction :

On the face of it, that means that there is no mandated "return" of refugees whatsoever, while fully erasing Article 7. But if so, why is Article 7 there at all? Clearly Israel is expected to accept some non-trivial number of "refugees".

Note: The above is in the middle of being rewritten.

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