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Sunday, August 08, 1999

Interview: Uri Avnery - no to right of return to within Israel

(IsraelWire-8/8) IMRA interviewed Uri Avnery, head of Gush Shalom, in Hebrew and English on August, 5 1999

 

IMRA: I want to ask you about the advertisement [copy below] your group is running in The Jerusalem Post and Haaretz tomorrow (8/6). There is a line in the ad that warns that if Barak's red lines are imposed on the Palestinians that it won't be a peace for generations but instead a short lived peace.

Avnery: Yes.

IMRA: The rest of your ad addresses various red lines but one of them is glaringly missing and I am wondering why it is not mentioned. That is the issue of the right of return.

Avnery: That is because we are going to publish next week a separate ad about that.

IMRA: What is the position of Gush Shalom on the right of return?

Avnery: First of all the right of return must be recognized in principle. But those who want to return must return to the Palestinian state. That's one reason why there is no place for settlers in the Palestinian state because all the land reserves are needed for settling the refugees. Those who want to return.

IMRA: In other words, you have a red line. Your red line is that the Palestinian refugees don't have the right to return to within the Green Line. You have a red line also.

Avnery: This is going to be settled by negotiations. I do believe that some will have to return to the territory of Israel proper.

IMRA: But not everyone who wants to return within Israel will be allowed in.

Avnery: Of course not.

IMRA: And your position does not go along with the United Nations resolution.

Avnery: I am not arguing with you. I am telling you what our position is. Our position is that the right of return must be recognized. Those who do not want to return will have to receive compensation in line with the compensation that the Germans gave. Those who want to return will return to the state of Palestine.

IMRA: But you are not giving an open door to the Palestinians who want to return to their homes in Jaffa.

Avnery: There can be no automatic return to the actual places that they came from because that would mean that they would create another refugee problem. One injustice will be created instead of another and one new refugee problem instead of another. This position is accepted by all the Palestinian I ever spoke about this with.

IMRA: So you say that it is only rhetoric when Yassir Arafat talks about the right of return of refugees to within Israel.

Avnery: What they say is return to Palestine.

IMRA: No. What they say is the right to return to Jaffa, Haifa, etc. They say these places explicitly. Places that are well within the Green Line. You are saying that this is just rhetoric. Just for negotiations?

Avnery: Yes.

IMRA: But you have a red line. If it turns out that this is actually their position then you would reject it.

Avnery: I have to accept everything the Palestinians say? We represent the interests of Israel - not the Palestinians. We are the Israeli side.

 

Text of ad:

Ehud Barak, Shalom,

We have voted for you, and we are glad we did.

You promised to bring a comprehensive peace with all our neighbors - Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese - and we believe that you really want that.

You promised to achieve the decisive breakthrough on all these tracks within a year and a half, and this proves that you have drawn the lesson from the experience of your predecessors. You have taken to heart the rule that says "you cannot cross an abyss in two jumps".

We are convinced that you will apply yourself to this task with energy, courage and logic.

But, Mr. Prime Minister, we are worried by the peace plan that you have in mind, and that is reflected in the "red lines" proclaimed by you. Even if you do succeed to impose a plan like that on the Palestinians, by exploiting the present superiority of Israel, such a peace will not last "for generations".

We do not need a "permanent settlement", we need real peace.

Real peace cannot be based on a border that tears away further territory from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which together amount for only 22% of mandatory Palestine. The Green Line must be the basis of peace.

Real peace cannot come into being, if "settlement blocs" will be stuck like daggers into the body of the Palestinian state. The settlements, sitting as they do on the land and water reserves of the State of Palestine, will serve as a daily reminder of a dictate imposed by force.

Either peace or settlements. You can't have both.

Real peace cannot be created while the occupation of the Palestinian part of Jerusalem continues, cutting the inhabitants of the West Bank off from their economic, social and religious center. Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine.

Moreover, the fate of Jerusalem does not concern the inhabitants of this country only. Hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion of Muslims will never reconcile themselves to Israeli rule over the holy mosques.

Jerusalem has also a unique importance for hundred of millions of Christians, members of dozens of different churches on five continents. Trying to maintain exclusive Israeli rule over Jerusalem is a provocation to the whole world. Peace is real if the great majority on both sides accepts it whole-heartily as a fair compromise. The logic of the brain is not enough, the logic of the heart is needed too.

Not only the political attitudes of the Palestinian people must be taken into account, but also their feelings, anxieties and hopes. To ignore these would be a serious mistake.

Mr. Prime Minister, you are now making history. Do not miss the opportunity!

Gush Shalom- (IMRA -Independent Media Review & Analysis)



Source: http://www.israelwire.com/New/990808/99080829.html


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