In the colonial context of the Israeli mind, every Palestinian step backwards strengthens the position of those, who today represent the majority in Israel, who aspire to destroy Palestine. The history of the past three decades of negotiations demonstrates beyond any doubt that in the present relation of forces, compromises lead to additional pressures and to even more compromises. The only efficient counter-strategy should be: no compromise at all on our rights, even if it may take years to achieve freedom and return. Change the relation of forces and then negotiate, otherwise it is not a negotiation but a mere diktat.
The right of Palestinian refugees to return is an individual right guaranteed in international law (Photo: Fred Csasznik)
In an interview to Israeli Chanel 2, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas declared that he renounces his right to return back to the city of Safed, where he was born and from where he was expelled and became a refugee. In fact, the Palestinian president expressed more than a personal declaration; as in several previous occasions, Abu Mazen attempted to calm Israeli public opinion on the central issue of Palestinian refugee rights, and to reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a conflict over territory, borders and sovereignty.
While the Israeli right will not be seduced by Abbas’ statement, the left will attempt to use it to show that the Palestinian leadership takes into consideration the Israeli fear of a "demographic threat" and accepts Israel as a Jewish state.
While Abu Mazen has the right to give up his dream to return to Safed and even to live in Tel Aviv (if and when Israeli laws will permit it), he cannot speak on behalf of millions of other refugees who have never abdicated this right. This is so for three main reasons: first, the right to return and to get back one's property is an individual right, and each and every Palestinian will decide what to do with his/her stolen property, as well as if s/he intends to live on that property, to rent it or to sell it. Second, the right of return is a fundamental human right. Third, the right of return of the Palestinian refugees is part of international law and recognized by several UN resolutions; one can renounce the implementation of a right, but not the right itself. Even the state of Israel was obliged to express support for UN resolution 194 in order to be accepted as a member state in the United Nations.
Abu Mazen’s statement may satisfy (although not completely, as always happen when one gives his finger in order to try and save the hand), but the price he is paying is extremely high: the great majority of Palestinian public opinion is angry, including within Abbas’ own party, and for many he has crossed the line of loyalty to his own people.
As an Israeli, I am not the one to decide what is loyalty to the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights. However, as an Israeli I can evaluate the miscalculation of the Palestinian president: in the colonial context of the Israeli mind, every Palestinian step backwards strengthens the position of those – and today they represent the majority in Israel – who aspire to destroy Palestine. "More pressure, more compromise" – this has been the Zionist strategy for decades already. The history of the past three decades of negotiations demonstrates beyond any doubt that in the present relation of forces, compromises lead to additional pressures and to even more compromises.
The only efficient counter-strategy should be: no compromise at all on our rights, even if it may take years to achieve freedom and return. This is not a maximalist strategy of "everything or nothing", but a matter of political realism, pragmatism even: change the relation of forces and then negotiate, otherwise it is not a negotiation but a mere diktat.