At this super-sensitive time when the AbuMazen/Shaath regime -- essentially imposed on the Palestinians by the US and Israel -- is in danger of loosing all credibility, Shaath has been on the go attempting to redress his corrupt and quisling image. This report from the right-wing Israeli Artuz-7 group can be interpreted in many ways, including a masked attempt to build up the credibility of AbuMazen/Shaath as they essentially continue to do American and Israeli bidding...
. SPEAKING THE P.A.'S MIND
Nabil Shaath, the foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, said it clearly: "We do not see any solution for our Palestinian brethren in Lebanon other than the return to the homeland. The right to return is certain, and it is guaranteed both to the areas of the Palestinian state and to the Palestinian towns and villages within the state of Israel. Whether one wants to return to Haifa or to Shechem, he will be able to."
His words, spoken at a symposium in Beirut on Friday night, caused a stir in Israel. Even MKs Shimon Peres and Matan Vilnai of Labor objected. "Once again, the Palestinians are dealing with something that they will never attain," Peres said. It will be recalled that Peres promised the Knesset in the early days of Oslo, on Nov. 18, 1993, that there would never be a Palestinian state: "No Palestinian state! Are you deaf!? I tell you that a Palestinian state will not arise - only a Palestinian police force."
Vilnai said, "The Palestinians had better realize that all the parties in Israel are united against the so-called right of return." Even Yossi Sarid of Meretz sounded off against Shaath's remarks, but conceded Yesha in the process: "The right of return can be only into the Palestinian state," he said.
Shaath himself realized that he had gone a bit too far in his public remarks, and on Saturday night made a slight about-face. Speaking in Damascus, he said that "hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees" have the right to return to the Palestinian state, but that the return to Israel will be a matter for negotiations. However, he backed up his words by quoting the Saudi initiative and the Road Map. The latter says nothing about refugees, but is based on the Saudi plan, which does. See next article for the significance thereof.
Well-known journalist Dan Margalit wrote in Maariv on Sunday,
"We must thank Shaath. He helped Israel by revealing the secrets of his heart... He has strengthened the suspicion, that in any event was nesting in our hearts, that the Palestinians have no interest in solving the refugee problem outside the State of Israel." Margalit said that the refugee issue must therefore be negotiated before other more "solvable" issues.
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2. BEDEIN WARNS: ISRAEL STANDS ALONE REGARDING RIGHT OF RETURN
Following Nabil Shaath's remarks demanding the 'right of return' to Israel for hundreds of thousands of Arabs, Israeli journalist and analyst David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency (www.israelbehindthenews.com) wrote why Israelis should be very concerned.
"Nabil Shaath declared," Bedein wrote, "that the US-sponsored road map mandates the right of Palestinian Arab refugees to return to villages from 1948 which have been replaced by cities, collective farms and woodlands in the present-day State of Israel. Surprisingly, Shaath was correct. All you have to do is to read the Road Map at "www.un.org/media/main/roadmap122002.html" to know that the Saudi initiative, which supports the right of return, provides the basis for the Road Map..."
"Thousands of maps recently issued and distributed by the Palestinian National Authority in Arabic and in English," Bedein writes, "provide a clear guide for Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants to forcibly take back the 531 Arab villages lost in 1948 which have been replaced by Israeli cities, collective farms and woodlands."
Even though Shaath supposedly reversed himself the next day, Bedein and IMRA note that a widely-circulated PA press release, still found at "www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?cat=1&id=994", clearly states, "No condition has been set for a return [only] to an independent Palestinian state."
Where does the U.S. stand on this issue? Not with Israel. Bedein writes:
"Shimon Shiffer, Senior Diplomatic Correspondent for Israel's Yediot Acharonot newspaper, reported on May 23, 2003, two days before the Israeli government ratified the Road Map, that the Americans "rejected one of Israel's central demands, namely, that the Palestinian Arabs would agree to concede the right of return in return for Israel's recognition of a Palestinian Arab state. They also rejected Israel's demand to remove the Saudi proposal - which includes a full withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 lines and Israel's recognition of the right of return, in return for full Arab recognition of Israel - as one of the main sources of the Road Map's authority.
"Israel has requested that the US, Canada, the EU and the Scandinavian countries who are involved in Middle East negotiations issue a clear statement of opposition to the Arab demand for the 'right of return.' However, none of them will do so.
"Checking with ranking diplomats from the US, Canada, the EU and Scandinavia, I have discovered that all diplomatic missions in Israel, including the US, demand that Israel allow some refugees to return. They universally quote a recent Palestinian poll that "only 10%" of the Palestinian Arab refugees would want to return to their villages that they left in 1948.
"Well, since UNRWA counts 3.9 million people who qualify as 'Palestinian Arab refugees,' that would mean that Israel would have to absorb some 400,000 Arabs who would claim their homes and villages which are now in the heart of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa along with hundreds of kibbutzim and moshavim.
"Israel stands alone in its position that Arab refugees and their descendants have no legal or moral right to take back their villages from 1948.
"However, the Road Map is based on precisely that presumption. Most Israelis do not know that. [This is because Israeli media over the past ten years have had] a tendency to downplay any negative prognosis of the 'peace process.' ...