2-State Solution Would Cut Off ‘Right of Return’ : For Palestinians, Peace May Bar the Long Road Home
After he heard the news of Washington’s willingness to talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization, Jamal, a young Palestinian refugee who spends his days painting portraits of “martyrs” to the cause of independence, realized with a start that in one way it was the end of a dream.
“I woke up from bed and it came to me. I would have to give up the idea of going back to my family’s home village in Israel. This was always at the center of my family’s view of the future. We would go back. Now, I think it is not realistic,” said Jamal, sitting in his small, messy studio-shack.
Jamal, like other residents of Dahaisha, a crowded cinderblock-jumble refugee camp near Bethlehem, was thinking about the aftermath of the new diplomatic developments taking place far from their doors.
Their thoughts formed a curious blend of joy--because it seemed that some deep principle had been upheld, one that affirmed that Palestinians were no longer universal pariahs--with the sobering sensation that if peace talks ultimately are held and succeed, the refugees would be giving up their most cherished desire.
‘Someone Has Our Land’
“It is not realistic. Someone else has our land and we will not go back. It was a pleasant thought for a long time,” Jamal mused as he put the finishing touches on the beard of a dead Dahaisha man on canvas. Jamal’s family comes from a village near Bet Shemesh, west of Jerusalem inside Israel.
Jamal is one of 800,000 refugees who are among the Palestinian population, totaling an estimated 1.7 million, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. They or their families had fled homes in what is now Israel at one time or another during the recurrent wars of the past 40 years. Their almost universal longing to go back is now being eclipsed by talks proposed by their leaders that at the very most would do no more for them than eventually create a Palestinian homeland adjacent to the established state of Israel.
Some factions of the PLO, as well as independent Muslim fundamentalists, have complained that people like Jamal are being sold out. In leaflets circulated in the occupied land, the groups reject a two-state solution in favor of a winner-take-all struggle for all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Factions aligned with Syria are scolding PLO leader Yasser Arafat for abandoning a Palestinian “right of return” to their former homes.
It is hard to gauge the breadth of the mood to compromise the dream. Native West Bank and Gaza Palestinians are generally more agreeable than refugees; the natives are, after all, already at home and just want the Israelis to leave. But among refugees in Dahaisha, a community that was militantly anti-Israel long before the Arab uprising began more than a year ago, there was surprising moderation in tone and substance. Dreams, if not discarded altogether, were at least being put on the shelf.
“In the past, we said beautiful phrases about going home. Maybe they were just phrases,” mused Sami, 31, an employee in a Jerusalem grocery store.
Added Rezik, a 20-year-old construction laborer whose family also hails from near Bet Shemesh: “I visited my old home a year ago. It was pleasant to go. But we have to take what we can get, and a Palestinian state here is what we hope we can get.”
There are varying explanations for why even refugees, whose opportunities and living standards generally fall below those of local natives, might be prone to accept some form of compromise. For one, statistics show, many of the refugees have weaned themselves away from full dependence on U.N. largess in the often-squalid camps. More than half of the refugees registered with the U.N. Relief and Works Agency have homes outside of the enclaves in the West Bank and Gaza.
Abu Ibrahim, an elderly radiator repair shop operator in Dahaisha who fled from a village near Tel Aviv in 1948, owns two apartments.
‘Roots on This Side’
“I have roots on this side of the Green Line now,” he said, referring to the pre-1967 frontier between the West Bank and Israel. “I have sentiment for my old home town, but my things are here.”
Another explanation focuses on the purifying effect of Washington’s opening to the PLO after 13 years of shunning all official contact. “Even if we get only one-fifth of Palestine, we feel better than before because the world finally understands us and our tragedies,” said Munir Fasheh, a sociologist at Birzeit University in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“Before, we were always told we were wrong. Now, people talk about a solution to our problem. It is perhaps not a fully just solution. But sometimes, looking for full justice brings disaster. It is better perhaps to get less justice with peace,” Fasheh said.
Fasheh’s family fled his home in Jerusalem in 1948, and under present circumstances, he believes he will never live in the old house again. “It is in my heart to go back. But the world consensus is that there must be compromise. We are part of the world,” he said.
Easing of Tension Seen
Some Israeli officials, aware of a momentary feeling of compromise among Palestinians, believe that notwithstanding the violence of recent days, the Arab uprising may ease for a while.
“It was clear to us after the events of the week, a large part of the population would see (the U.S.-PLO talks) as an achievement and try to moderate participation of the masses in (protests),” Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Friday.
Rabin said that that irredentist radicals will be the ones stirring up trouble. “It was clear that extremist elements who oppose the processes this week would try to heat up the territories,” he declared.
Israeli troops shot and killed three more Palestinian protesters and rock throwers Sunday. Five suffered fatal gunshot wounds Friday, marking one of the most violent three-day periods in recent weeks.
Baby Struck by Rock
A 9-month-old Israeli baby was recovering Sunday from a serious head injury she suffered when Arabs on the West Bank hurled a rock through the window of a car in which the child was traveling. The impact knocked the infant unconscious. Officials at Hadassah Hospital said she was in stable condition.
The child’s injury raised an outcry among settlers who protested in Jerusalem for increased military protection from Palestinians who set ambushes on public highways.
Meanwhile, some observers here say that Israelis as well as Palestinians may have to consider the death of dreams. For one thing, the quest among right-wing Israelis for a “Greater Israel” between the Jordan and Mediterranean is now seriously in question. The usually cautious U.S. ambassador, Thomas R. Pickering, remarked in a speech last week: “Israel must face up to the need for negotiated withdrawal . . . and to accommodate the legitimate Palestinian political rights.”