BADIL Bulletin-9 examines the implications on Palestinian refugees' right of return of the new diplomatic initiative being prepared by the Bush administration and echoed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, based on currently available press information. If press reports are accurate in suggesting that the Bush initiative for a two-state solution will "recognize the national character of each state," the formula, already proposed by former US president Clinton at Camp David II, is in blatant violation of international law. It is rejected by the international human rights community and Palestinian refugees, irrespective of its popularity among Israelis and western media and policy makers. The formula also contradicts the official negotiating position of the Palestinian leadership, irrespective of the opinion voiced recently by Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh.
Proposals for a Palestinian state to be established alongside a "Jewish state" support the discriminatory practices applied by Israel against its non-Jewish, i.e. mainly Palestinian, citizens and residents since 1948. Also the formula "a Palestinian state for Palestinians and Israeli for Israelis" is misleading, because it suggests that there is an Israeli nationality, while in fact Israel continues to define its national character as Jewish and not Israeli. In practice, this formula effectively excludes all Palestinians and "non-Jews" living in Israel, and, as noted by the UN Committee on Social, Economic, and Cultural Rights, "encourages discrimination and accords second class status to [Israel's] non-Jewish citizens." (1998 Concluding Observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights).
The transformation of Israel into a state of its citizens has been a long-standing demand of the Palestinian anti-discrimination movement in Israel. Until this goal is achieved, support for "Israel as Israeli" will mean support for Israel's ethnically-based displacement, dispossession, discrimination and rights violations. These violations affect some one million Palestinian citizens, including some 250,000 internally displaced, as well as the 1948 externally displaced refugees, who are entitled to return, restitution and Israeli citizenship under international law. In other words, also the Bush initiative appears to incorrectly perceive the Palestinian refugee issue as an "explosive" political issue, rather than as a legal issue with clearly defined parameters (international law and UN Resolution 194) for a durable solution.
For information about the official Palestinian negotiating position concerning Palestinian refugees' individual right of return, see: www.nad-plo.org and www.monde-diplomatique.fr/cahier/proche-orient/refugeespal-en