PA: Palestinian refugees’ right of return paramount

Wihdat camp in Amman. Jordan has the largest concentration of Palestinian refugees, with nearly two million in 13 camps. (Arjan El Fassed)

The Palestinian Authority has denied Israeli press reports citing concessions from President Mahmud Abbas on the issue of Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Monday quoted unnamed Palestinian sources as saying that Abbas would present Palestinian leaders, who are due to meet in Cairo on Tuesday, with a new position on the “right of return”.  

The new position would seek to convince faction leaders to recognise that the refugees’ right of return could not be implemented in full given current political and demographic realities, Haaretz said. The PA called the report a “fabrication”.

“This is Israeli disinformation,” Abd Allah Abd Allah, director-general of the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, said on Tuesday. He told that there was no way any Palestinian official would give up on the right of return since nobody other than the refugees themselves have the right to cede their rights.

Crux of the matter

“I assure you that no Palestinian … would agree to abandon this sacred right. The right of return is the Palestinian question. It is the crux of the matter.” Abd Allah accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of seeking “pretexts” to evade the implementation of the US-backed road map for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

On Monday, Sharon reportedly told visiting UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that Israel would not carry out the road map unless the PA disarmed Palestinian resistance groups and ended “incitement” against Israel and Jews in the Palestinian media, textbooks and mosques.

He also approved a new route for the separation barrier in the Jerusalem area in violation of a non-binding ruling last year by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which considered the structure illegal and called for the demolition of certain portions of it. The new route will annex the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, Maali Adumim, and cut off the northern part of the West Bank from the Bethlehem and Hebron regions in the south.

Charges rejected

“Sharon does not want a ceasefire, he does not want calm, he does not want Hamas to move towards moderation. All this militates against his agenda, which is based on arrogating more Palestinian land and demonising the Palestinian people in the eyes of the world,” Abd Allah said. His charges were rejected by an Israeli government spokesman, who said Sharon was committed to the road map plan.

“All these issues will be discussed in the final status talks. The separation wall is a security structure, not a borderline,” Leor Ben Dor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said.

When asked why Israel was expanding Jewish colonies in the West Bank despite the road map’s stipulations in the road map and US objections, Ben Dor said there were differences within the Israeli government on this matter.

The Israeli press on Monday reported that new buildings were being constructed in settlement outposts in the southern and central parts of the West Bank. The Sharon government has time and again assured the Bush administration it will remove the these outposts.

Khalid Amayreh is a journalist based in the occupied West Bank. This article was originally published by and reprinted on EI with permission.

Related Links

  • BY TOPIC: Refugees