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In Response to Netanyahu's Speech

By Palestine Return Center, June 24, 2009

 In a key policy speech coming at the back of seeming US pressure for a move towards peace in the Middle East, the right of return, a fundamental pillar for lasting peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, is gravely threatened as the Israeli Prime Minister; Benjamin Netanyahu, lays out his vision of a Palestinian State.
Stating for the first time that he would accept an independent Palestinian State, his overtures to peace, warmly greeted in the US, is full of conditions on the Palestinian side, with no substantial concessions on the Israeli side.
The “right of return”, which Netanyahu so easily dismissed in his speech, is for Palestinian refugees, a core pillar for any lasting peace recognised by various UN resolutions and international law.
‘These are the fundamental rights of Palestinians, behind which is the force of the world community and any peace initiative which detracts from this formula will fail miserably’, said Majed Al Zeer, Director of the Palestinian Return Centre.
The Israeli Prime Ministers vision of a Palestinian state is an affront to the viable solution for peace. His speech rejects peace with Palestinians when he brazenly rejected the right of Palestinian refugees, who fled Israeli brutality or were forced out of their homes during the 1948 war, to return to their ancestral home.
The most basic expression of the right of return is embedded in article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which stipulates that "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."This is also supported by numerous articles and provisions within the Geneva Convention.
Palestinian self determination and the right of return are both inviolable rights in themselves and one cannot be exchanged for the other. This ostensible realignment of Netanyahu’s policy is a smokescreen to continually deny the rights of Palestinians and maintain the status quo, the right of return is non- negotiable and the right to Palestinian self determination is also no-negotiable.
‘It’s obvious to any serious observer of the hypocrisy that is at the heart of Netanyahu’s demand to jettison the right of return’, lamented, Al Zeer, ‘Palestinians are continually being told to abandon any preconditions for peace and Israel continuous to set all kinds of unreasonable preconditions on Palestinians.’
The fact that this speech also does not, in reality, mark any major shift in Israeli policy is noticeable in Netanyahu’s insistence that ‘Palestinians must recognize Israel as a state for the Jewish People.’ The prospect for peace amidst such rhetoric is extremely gloomy as it insists on defining the state of Israel ethnically rather than a democratic state for all its citizens. This not only refutes the right of 4.7 million refugees returning to their ancestral homes it also threatens the future safety and security of 2 million Palestinians that are already living in Israel, under various discriminatory laws.
Israel it seems is still not serious about making peace with the Palestinians, if it was it would not make such unreasonable preconditions. The Palestinian people have suffered in unimaginable ways for well over sixty years and their dream of any meaningful self determination is chiseled away for Israel’s idealistic aspirations as the notion of a Palestinian state, in the minds of Netanyahu, is reduced to nothing but small cantonments. To further add to this tragedy, Netanyahu is demanding that Palestinians make more sacrifice by giving up their right to return when this right is now almost sacrosanct in international law.

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