News24

Palestinian leader rejects Israel deal

2013-01-10 20:09

Ramallah - The Palestinian president said he has rejected a conditional Israeli offer to let Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria resettle in the West Bank and Gaza, charging it would compromise their claims to return to lost homes in Israel.

Palestinians in Syria are descendants of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes in the war that followed Israel's creation in 1948.

Uprooted Palestinians and their offspring, now numbering several million people, cite UN resolutions in claiming the right to return to the property they left behind.

Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas has asked UN chief Ban Ki-moon last month to seek Israeli permission to bring Palestinians caught in Syria's civil war to the Palestinian territories.

The request came after fighting between Syrian troops and rebel fighters in Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Syria.

About half of the camp's 150 000 residents have fled, according to a UN aid agency.

Abbas told a group of Egyptian journalists in Cairo late on Wednesday that Ban contacted Israel on his behalf.

Abbas said Ban was told Israel "agreed to the return of those refugees to Gaza and the West Bank, but on condition that each refugee... sign a statement that he doesn't have the right of return [to Israel]."

"So we rejected that and said it's better they die in Syria than give up their right of return," Abbas told the group.

Some of his comments were published Thursday by the Palestinian news website Sama.

Officials in Israel's Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister's Office declined comment on Thursday.

The Israeli condition linked to the resettlement offer made it impossible for Abbas to accept, said Ahmed Hanoun, an official in the refugee department of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the umbrella group Abbas heads.

"I think the Israelis were not serious about this offer," said Hanoun. "If they were, they would have endorsed the return of these people who live in misery, and not to blackmail them to relinquish their legal rights."

Dealing the refugees

UN-mediated contacts between Israel and Palestinian president concerning the Palestinians in Syria marked the first time in years the two sides have dealt with a practical problem linked to the refugee issue.

Bringing tens of thousands of Palestinians from Syria to the Palestinian territories would be a large burden, as Abbas' self-rule government is dealing with a severe financial crisis, while the Gaza Strip, run by his Hamas rivals, is impoverished and crowded.

Some 4 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war that the Palestinians seek for a state. Israel occupies the West Bank and east Jerusalem and continues to control most access to Gaza after withdrawing from the territory in 2005.

In addition, several million Palestinians live in neighbouring Arab countries, including more than half a million in Syria.

The fate of Palestinian refugees is an explosive issue that has loomed large in the failure of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks over the past two decades.

Israel maintains that a mass influx of Palestinians could destroy the Jewish character of their state, and there is broad consensus there against a large-scale resettling of Palestinian refugees.

Abbas, meanwhile, would face a massive backlash from his people if he were seen as compromising on the refugees' decades-promised "right of return" to lost homes.

In previous rounds of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, several ideas were floated; including allowing for a limited return of refugees to what is now Israel and settling the rest in a future Palestinian state and third countries. Talks broke off four years ago.

Comments
  • fidel.uncensored - 2013-01-10 20:51

    People who "left" 2000 years ago are now presenting their birth certificates, proving Immortality and claiming a godly right to return, and yet Palestinians who were expelled a mere 60 years ago are denied this right. If you are only allowed the right of return if you are a Jew, is that racist or religious?

      doberman.love.1 - 2013-01-10 23:12

      Dear Fidel, please dont project your own thoughts onto others. You clearly wish that Hitler had finished the job. Muslims of course ably assisted him. The Moslems did indeed recover what was then called Palestine from the Crusaders - who had the highly laudable aim of protecting right of Pilgramage to the Holy Land from its Moslem conquerers - but the restored land of Israel is the Jewish homeland. You take sides with the barbarians and tyrants of Islam against Israel if you want, but for those who wish to defend civilisation, they will always defend the democratic State of Israel. While people like yourself Fidel pave the way towards the second Holocaust, others prepare for the next Nuremburg. God bless.

      hilton.serman.5 - 2013-01-11 00:14

      Don't forget that god have all of the land to the Jews. I can show you a few of the most popular books in history that validate this claim. To deny this is to deny God. Your choice. I know where I prefer to stand.

      fidel.uncensored - 2013-01-11 05:21

      doberman, are you an Israeli apparatchik, or simply an indiscriminate friend of Israel. Any other flack you'd like to throw at the issue, rather than face up to the reality? How does one debate with someone who not only refuses to accept that a basic premise is up for discussion (If you are only allowed the right of return if you are a Jew, is that racist or religious?) but also drenches the dialogue with insults and fallacies. hilton, the Jews were given Israel by the UN, and not god! I know that it is confusing to be confronted with inaccuracies but such is the atmosphere of myths and legends.

  • jeremy.bard.31 - 2013-01-10 21:04

    Another one of Israel's generous offers: "We will allow you into the West Bank (not part of Israel) on condition you hand us a pound of flesh and prostrate towards Israel" Well what do you expect from these devious, thieving, land-grabbing, zio-occupiers? Their level of depravity knows no bounds ....

      doberman.love.1 - 2013-01-10 21:29

      I am a South African who can trace my ancestry in England and Ireland back to Elizabethan times . Both Catholic and C of E . Have studied both Sufi and mystic Kabbalah ( one of the great ironies is how great their similarities are) I have a great love for Israel and wish it to prosper and grow , in peace if possible otherwise with power and vigilance . Does this make me a Zionist? As people who think as I are often accused of being. And if so where do I go to join up.

      jeremy.bard.31 - 2013-01-10 21:36

      That's easy. Lucifer patiently awaits your application

      avremel.niselow - 2013-01-10 21:48

      No Jeremy he will be far too busy cataloguing you and your ilk.

      larry.lachman.54 - 2013-01-11 06:55

      "Better they die in Syria" Abbas.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2013-01-11 08:18

      @Larry- spot on, so called national brotherhood . As Palestinian refugees you cannot seek refuge in the Palestinian territories because it might diminish the leverage we can apply on Isreal .You are a far more valuble politcal tool right where you are.

  • jojo.balela.1 - 2013-01-10 21:41

    If this is how Israel negotiates, then the Palestinians / the peace process doesn't seem to have a chance ... Such a shame

      fidel.uncensored - 2013-01-11 05:30

      Israel has never been for peace and will never be, they only use rhetoric under the guise of which they can continue to persecute Palestinians and steal their land. After all peace and borders are contradictory to their aim of expansion and creating a Jewish state.

      larry.lachman.54 - 2013-01-11 06:59

      The 'Peace' can maintain or dismantle the state of Israel. It is not a matter of choosing peace versus non-peace. It is a matter of choosing a 'peace' that does not turn Israel into another Islamic ruled state that imperils Jewish existence once again.

      fidel.uncensored - 2013-01-11 07:24

      What must happen, regardless of whether we're talking about a two-state or three-state solution, is the emergence of a Palestinian state, unencumbered by Israel's peace-killing preconditions and its demands for redrawing the borders to legitimise its theft of Palestinian land on the West Bank. The Palestinians have time and numbers on their side, and One day Israel will fall, it's as certain as a sunrise. The deeper you dig yourselves into the culture of intolerance, violence, and injustice the sooner that day will come. The only true hope/salvation for Israel is to negotiate, in good faith, with the Arabs, and to stop killing them!

  • crab.spotter - 2013-01-11 09:12

    Abbas and the like rather choose death than life. Abbas himself chooses this FOR the desparate Syrians, trying to manipulate Israel with death threats, what is new?

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