The Palestinian Authority’s Understanding of a Peace Deal with Israel

July 16, 2020

by: Adv. Maurice Hirsch

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A Palestinian demonstration on “Nakba Day”—the so-called “catastrophe” of the establishment of Israel (illustrative).

Thursday, 16 July 2020 | One of the most fundamental demands of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for any peace deal with Israel is that Israel allows every person they [the PA] define as a “Palestinian refugee” to settle in Israel. In practical terms, this means that the PA expects Israel—that has a population of 9 million people, including 2 million Israeli Arabs—to absorb all of the 5,629,829 so-called Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The constant reminder of this demand is the Palestinian “Nakba Day.” The word “Nakba” means “catastrophe” in Arabic, and Palestinians use it to mark the day after the establishment of Israel (May 14, 1948), when combined forces from Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq joined local Arab forces in an attempt to eradicate the newly established State of Israel.

Understanding who the people the PA defines as “Palestinian refugees” and their original number is integral to understanding the Palestinian demand. This point was made clear by PA Chairman [Mahmoud] Abbas, in a speech he gave to the Fatah [leading secular Palestinian political party] Central Committee in which he stressed that in anticipation of “Nakba Day”: 

“I wish to comment on one point, and it is the number of refugees who were expelled in 1948. The number of refugees who were expelled from their homes—and I say that a refugee is not someone who was removed from their homeland, but rather someone who was removed from their home—is 950,000…The definition of a refugee is a person who is expelled from their home to another home, and therefore whoever was removed from Jaffa to Ramallah is a refugee, and whoever went from Ashkelon to Gaza is a refugee. The meaning [of refugee] is not just someone who left the homeland.”

First and foremost, Abbas’ claim that “the official number [of refuges] that is registered at the UN is 950,000”, is simply false. The UN has never had an “official number” of Palestinian refugees and the estimates that appear in UN documents were much lower.

A so-called “fact sheet” posted this year on the website of PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Shtayyeh to mark the 72th anniversary of the “Nakba” claims that “800,000 Palestinians or more were displaced.” A similar figure was presented on official PA TV.

In a study authored by Professor Efraim Karsh of the Begin–Sadat Center for Strategic Affairs at Bar Ilan University, Karsh quotes an August 3, 1948 article in the New York Times, which set the number of refugees as of the date of the article at 300,000 people. Karsh continues to explain how the real number of refugees was closer to 540,000–590,000 people.

UNRWA defines “Palestine refugees” as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”

The Interim Report recorded that 50% of the original refugees were 16 years old and above. Those remaining of these people would now be at least 88 years old. The remaining 50% were under 16 years old and would today be between 72 and 87 years old.

While death by natural causes resulted in an annual reduction of the number of actual refugees from Palestine, UNRWA statistics clearly show that the number listed as Palestinian refugees is growing, and at a considerable rate.

This anomaly is the result of a unique refugee definition adopted by UNRWA, specifically for the refugees from Palestine, which allows for “the descendants of Palestine refugee males, including adopted children” to be registered as refugees.

Emphasizing what the Palestinians see as the inalienable nature of the right of return, PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] Executive Committee member and head of the PLO Department of Refugee Affairsand the PLO Supreme National Committee, Ahmad Abu Houli said: “The right of return will remain a judicial, legal and international document of proof in the hands of the Palestinian refugees that no one can steal from them or erase from the Palestinian memory.”

Having brainwashed all Palestinians—and in particular the Palestinian “refugees”—for over seven decades to believe that their refugee status is inalienable and that they will eventually be allowed to settle in Israel, it is doubtful whether any Palestinian leader will ever be able to accept any offer for peace that does not accommodate and realize this narrative.

Indeed, in 2013 when Israel offered to allow Palestinian refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria to enter the PA-controlled territories, on condition they waived their refugee status, the offer was rejected by Abbas. According to Abbas, it was more reasonable that the Palestinian refugees potentially die in Syria, rather than give up their refugee status.

For the purposes of the international community, the PA pretends to support what has become known as the “Two State Solution,” which would see a sovereign Jewish state living side by side with a sovereign Palestinian state. But in reality, the PA’s only vision is the creation of a Palestinian state, free of Jews, that would exist alongside Israel flooded with the so-called Palestinian refugees. These refugees, according to the PA vision, would of course receive full Israeli citizenship and be able democratically to eradicate the Jewish state.

Posted on July 16, 2020

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published in Palestinian Media Watch on July 12, 2020. Time related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See the original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: Montecruz Foto/

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