Commentators and Middle East experts have now had a few weeks to scrutinize the Trump peace plan, whether to praise or bury it. Remarkably, the plan is the first explicitly to refer to the rights of Jewish refugees. However, it seems almost to have gone unnoticed that the plan puts paid to the primordial issue driving the conflict: the Palestinian “right of return.” Lyn Julius writes in JNS News (with thanks: Imre):
The Arab-Israeli conflict created both a Palestinian
and Jewish refugee problem. Palestinian refugees, who
have suffered over the past 70 years, have been treated
as pawns on the broader Middle East chessboard, and
empty promises have been made to them and to their host
countries. A similar number of Jewish refugees were
expelled from Arab lands shortly after the creation of
the State of Israel, and have also suffered.
Announcing the Trump plan in Washington
The Trump plan states, clearly and unequivocally, that
there shall be no “right of return” to Israel for
Palestinian refugees—code for overwhelming the state of
Israel with millions of “refugees” and their
descendants. Instead, under the plan the “refugees” will
be absorbed in their host countries or in a state of
Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza.
As long as there is no humanitarian solution for the
Palestinian refugee problem, Israel-Palestinian conflict
will never end. The Trump plan understands this, and for
the first time tries to come up with a “just, fair and
realistic” solution that does not involve even a token
return of “refugees” to Israel.
Moreover, for the first time in a peace document, the Trump
plan explicitly mentions the Jewish refugees from Arab
countries, in the same sentence with Palestinian refugees.
The document states: “A similar number of Jewish refugees
were expelled from Arab lands shortly after the creation of
the State of Israel, and have also suffered. … Most settled in
the State of Israel and some settled elsewhere.” (In fact,
more Jewish refugees [850,000] fled Arab countries than
Palestinians fled Israel [711,00]. Some 200,000 settled
An innovation is that the plan suggests that Israel ought to
be compensated for absorbing Jewish refugees.
Some resent the comparison—Palestinian refugees are the
byproduct of a war their side started and lost. The Jewish
refugees were innocent non-combatants far from the theater of
war, deliberately scapegoated by Arab regimes because they
happened to have the same religion and ethnicity as Israelis.
Others have criticized the plan for affirming that “a just,
fair and realistic solution for the issue relating to Jewish
refugees must be implemented through an appropriate
international mechanism separate from an Israel/Palestine
Peace Agreement.” Quite what this international mechanism
might be is not specified. Observers fear that any agreement
between Israel and the Palestinians that detaches justice for
Jewish refugees from the main peace agenda will end up kicking
the Jewish refugee issue into the long grass.
The underlying premise behind the “separate international
mechanism” approach is likely to be that the Palestinians are
not responsible for the Jewish refugees. The Jewish refugees
ought to be compensated by the Arab regimes which dispossessed
them and expelled them. But seven Arab League states went to
war with Israel—a regional war that created both sets of
refugees. The logical conclusion is that a regional agreement
ought to be signed that deals with both issues simultaneously.
Another disappointment is that nowhere does the Trump plan
the International Fund proposed by President Bill
Clinton at Camp David in 2000. This was intended to
compensate individual refugees, both Palestinian and Israeli,
for their lost assets. The fund would have also had the virtue
of compensating Jewish refugees who settled outside Israel.
But whatever its shortcomings, the Trump plan is not intended
to do more than sketch out the broad outlines of a deal. It
has tried to grapple with the refugee elephant in the room,
and for this alone deserves praise.
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Same article at Algemeiner