Fears over Geneva stance on right of return

Critics have lashed out at an alternative peace plan drawn up by Palestinian officials and Israeli opposition politicians saying it gives up the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

    Some observers wonder how long the smiles will last

    Israeli political analyst Yigal Carmon accused former Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin of “lying” to the Israeli public by saying that the Palestinians had given up the right of return  but at the same time promising the Palestinians that they could return.

    “It’s a fraud…Fraud leaves you no where - it leads to more bloodshed,” he warned, adding the initial scenes of celebrations among the two sides will be replaced in a week with increased violence.

    On Monday Beilin and former Palestinian information minister Yasir Abd Rabbu led delegations in Geneva for the glitzy unveiling of a proposal aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    Carmon, who heads the Israeli branch of US-based think tank Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), accused the Geneva event of harming future peace efforts.

    “It is a front that can live only two weeks and the damage will be worse than before,” he said.

    Carmon stressed that the US- backed “road map” to peace was the only solution to the conflict.

    Most Palestinian refugees are 
    living in squalid conditions

    Hamas representative Sayyid Siyam said the group, which is spearheading the Intifada, considers the plan "a stab in the back of the Palestinians and relinquishment of all their rights".

    He said "the initiative renounces the right of return of millions of Palestinian refugees, who have been scattered in refugee camps for a long time". 

    Concerns

    Azmi Bashara, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset, believes Palestinians gave up the right of return by supporting the alternative proposal, adding the accord was a step backwards for their struggle. 

    "By accepting it, the Palestinians gave up their rights in an unofficial manner," said Bashara, who also holds an Israeli citizenship.

    The MK believes the Geneva deal will weaken the Palestinian stance in the long run.

    "When the Palestinians will negotiate the right of return in an official manner, the Israelis will smile and say ‘but you have already given it up in Geneva’," he said.

    Hopes

    But some observers believed the Geneva fanfare was a positive step.

    “It was good because it showed that both sides of the fence can meet and talk instead of the alternative which is shooting each other,” said Israeli political analyst Victor Nahmias.


    Peace plan's main points:

    Waives the right of return for Palestinian refugees who were forced out in previous wars

    Divides Jerusalem giving Palestinian Muslims control over the site of Al-Aqsa but Jews control over the compound's Al-Buraq wall, referred to by Jews as the Western Wall  


    Jerusalem would be the capital of both a Palestinian and an Israeli state

    All Jewish settlments built in the illegitimately expanded  boundaries of Jerusalem since 1967, housing some 200,000 settlers, would be annexed to Israel

    Envisages the removal of most Jewish settlements in the rest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip


    Sharon will not be able to “stand around waiting for Godot anymore,” added the former Israeli diplomat to Jordan from 1996 to 2001.

    Before the Geneva Initiative, another proposal was put forward by Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service and prominent Palestinian intellect Sari Nussaibah.

    It called on Israel to fully withdraw from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip while annulling the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees. 

    “All the cries and voices are pushing Sharon to do something,” said Nahmias.

    Distrust

    However, Nahmias warned against pinning too many expectations on the plan.

    The Geneva Initiative cannot be implemented under the current circumstances where there is a complete lack of trust and confidence between the two sides, he said.

    Political analyst and human rights activist Hisham Shirbati agrees with Nahmias.

    “It could be a tool used in making a breakthrough towards peace as it shows to the whole world the moderate side of the Palestinians who are willing to be an active partner in negotiations.”

    But Shirbrati also favoured the US-backed blueprint.

    "At least it doesn't shut the door completely on the issue of the right of return as it is the case in the Geneva agreement," said Shirbati.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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