How the Chimera of a “Palestinian Right of Return” Makes Peace Impossible

An oft-repeated cliché of the Israel-Palestinian conflict is that its solution involves nothing more than finding the right way to partition the land, and convincing both sides to do so. The War of Return, a recent book by Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf, dismantles this myth, arguing that the issue that above all motivates the ongoing Arab war against Israel is the claim that descendants of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War of Independence have a right to “return,” not to a Palestinian state, but to a Jewish one. Benjamin Kerstein writes in his review:

From the beginning [of its existence], pressure was brought to bear on Israel to allow the refugees to return, and from the beginning Israel steadfastly refused, . . . believing that [doing so] would destroy Israel’s Jewish character and precipitate another, perhaps even more brutal war. Wilf and Schwartz reveal that this was in fact precisely the Arabs’ intention. The Arab media spoke openly of establishing a “fifth column” within Israel by repatriating the refugees, and the authors record the Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi’s view that the Arab mood at the time made it clear that the right of return “was clearly premised” on “the dissolution of Israel.”

Although anti-Zionists today insist that Israel’s refusal to accept a return of the refugees was a uniquely heinous violation of human rights and international law, it was entirely consistent with the moral and legal norms of the time, [and remains so]. Interestingly, the violation of these norms and the exceptional demands made on Israel with regard to the refugees were chiefly legitimized not by the Arabs but by the West.

Wilf and Schwartz identify the [Swedish] diplomat Folke Bernadotte as the first architect of what the Palestinians call the “right of return.” Sent to the region [by the UN] shortly after the 1948 war, Bernadotte . . . formulated a brutally anti-Israel plan for peace, which rejected the already-established Jewish state in favor of a federal Palestine. He urged Israel to make major territorial concessions and supported the Arabs’ rejection of the new state.

Wilf and Schwartz provide an excellent historical study of, and useful practical suggestions for dealing with, one of the most intractable aspects of the long struggle between the two peoples. But I doubt that these suggestions will prove effective unless and until the Palestinians, along with the larger Arab-Muslim world, come to terms with the fact that they are not uniquely persecuted, that Israel is not uniquely evil, and that compromise is therefore possible after all. Only then will Palestinians be in a position to renounce the irredentist dream of return that stands so stubbornly in the way of the dream of peace. Unfortunately, such a reckoning is not likely to come soon.

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Read more at Quillette

More about: Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Palestinian refugees, Peace Process

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy