• Borukh

    While I agree that “Israel [is] right to be wary of the Arab peace initiative”, I strongly disagree with rejecting it altogether. Paul Michaels’ column focusses primarily on UN General Assembly Resolution 194, concerniing the issue of the refugees. While Michaels acknowledges that the API allows some flexibility, and basically states that “a just solution… to be agreed upon” ie. negotiated, beteween Israel and the Palestinians will be acceptable to the members of the Arab League, he points out that the text “immediately adds that this is to be agreed upon ‘in accordance with UNGA 194′”, which he notes has been interpreted by the Arab states “in a way completely inimical to Israel’s very existence.”

    But the text of 194 includes the provision “that compensation should be paid for the property of THOSE CHOOSING NOT TO RETURN” (my emphasis). Michaels neglected to mention this important part. Furthermore, UNGA 194 requires that refugees who wish to return must “live at peace with their neighbours” – ie. their Israeli neighbours, Michaels also neglected to mention those words. The API text, in poiint of fact not only allows for the flexibility Michaels’ calls for in his column regarding interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, because it specifically refers to 242 in the preamble, it also includes the flexibility he justly desires regarding resolution of the refugee problem, because it specifically refers to 194.

    Furthermore, a very extensive and thorough survey of some 4,500 Palestinians living in the West Bank, Jordan and in refugee camps in Lebanon, etc. established that at most about 10% of refugees would decide to live in the Jewish state. The rest would choose to stay where they are or move to a new Palestinian state, both with compensation. This certainly wouldn’t pose the demographic disaster he predicts. See the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, ” Results of PSR Refugees’ Polls in the West Bank/Gaza Strip, Jordan and Lebanon on Refugees’ Preferences and Behavior in a Palestinian-Israeli Permanent Refugee Agreement”, with polling taken from January to June, 2003 (http://www.pcpsr.org/survey/polls/2003/refugeesjune03.html).

    Michaels ends noting that “the task for Israel is to pursue what is possible for peace”, but for some time Israeli governments have pursued policies the lead to expansion of settlements, creation of new settlements and allowing repeated establishment of so-called “outposts” that are illegal by Israel’s own laws. Even the internationally unrecognized annexation of the Old City and of East Jerusalem with subsequent significant building and expansion of Jewish neighbourhoods, clearly demonstrates where Israel is headed and what its true agenda is. It is NOT for a just peace. So it is rather disingenuous to say, as he does, that “Israel has always sought peace with its neighbours”.

    The opportunity that is presented by the API – the fact that Hamas refused to endorse it demonstrates this – should not be tossed aside!