London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The proposal by US President George Bush during his visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories of laying down an international mechanism to compensate the Palestinian refugees has aroused Palestinian reactions that could be described as homogenous in their content, whether at the official, unofficial, or opposition levels. The Palestinian stance can be summarized by saying that this proposal if it indicates anything, it does indicate an attempt to bypass the resolutions of the international legitimacy, especially Resolution 194, which gives the refugees the right to choose between return and compensation for those who do not want to go back.
Nimr Hammad, political advisor to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin), told Asharq Al-Awsat, “What President Bush said expresses his viewpoint.” Hammad added: “We do not believe that the solution is to shrink the international resolutions, including Resolution 194 for which the United States have been voting all the past years, and consider them as nonexistent. There is a resolution and a right that have to be taken into consideration. The formula agreed upon and ratified at the Arab, Palestinian, and even US levels is that of an agreed and negotiated settlement based on Resolution 194. Here I am also talking about the Arab initiative, the Road Map, and UN Resolution 1515, which was sponsored by the United States.” Hammad concluded by saying: “Perhaps through this proposal President Bush is trying to convince the Israelis and attract them to the negotiations’ table.”
Moreover, Azzam Al-Ahmad, leader of Fatah parliamentary bloc, told Asharq Al-Awsat, “An international resolution ought to be taken as a whole and not in a piecemeal way.” Al-Ahmad considers the proposal: “This is a deviation from Resolution 194 to which all ought to adhere.” Al-Ahmad pointed out, “The resolution refers to the public right upon which the PLO can now decide, and to the private or individual right which is superseded by the public right. However, it will remain the right of every Palestinian refugee to demand this right individually.” According to Al-Ahmad, similar discussions took place in the Camp David negotiations in July 2000, in which late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Baraq participated, and which were sponsored by former US President Bill Clinton.
Yahya Musa, deputy chairman of the Hamas bloc in the Legislative Council, considered, “with this proposal, Bush is trying to erase history and the international resolutions for the benefit of his jelly-like and ambiguous vision.” Musa added that with this proposal of his, Bush was exploiting the circumstances to direct the issue in a way to serve his aims and beliefs, and to support Israel.
Sami Abu-Zahri, Hamas spokesman, said that Bush’s proposal, by talking about compensation only, represented an abolition of the right to return, and a deviation from the resolution that gave the refugees the right to return to their homes from which they were expelled. Abu-Zahri added: “This proposal reflects Bush’s stances toward the other principal issues, such as Jerusalem. He talks about amending the borders, and supporting the annexation of settlement blocks, which means usurping the Palestinian rights.” “All this,” according to Abu-Zahri, “emphasizes his stance, which he declared on his arrival in Tel Aviv, namely confirming the Jewishness of the State of Israel,”
Jamil Majdalawi, chairman of the Refugees Committee at the Legislative Council, described Bush’s proposal as an attempt to wriggle out of Resolution 194, and to empty it of any content. Majdalawi, who is also a member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said, “The basis of Resolution 194 is the right of the refugees to return to their homes from which they were expelled by force. As for the compensation, it is a completion of this essence of the resolution, and it is offered to anyone who does not want to return.” Majdalawi continued, “Bush now presents the compensation as a sole option. I am afraid he finds something that encourages him to make this proposal in some Arab resolutions (the Arab initiative) and some Palestinian behaviors and vague texts, not to mention what some Palestinians, such as the Geneva groups and their infamous document, presented of ideas to resolve the issue of the refugees. These ideas not only strike at the core of Resolution 194, but they also squander the political and social entities of the Palestinian people, and consecrate their living in exile permanently. Naturally, these factors and others are the ones that encourage Bush to look for an alternative to Resolution 194.”
Qaddurah Faris, member of the so-called “Geneva group,” told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The issue of the refugees should not be handled this way, but it should be handled within the context of a comprehensive solution. First of all, fragmenting the issues will not do. Secondly, Bush said clearly that the United Nations failed to find a solution, and its resolutions are dated; this way, he destroys all the international references of the solution. “Qaddurah, who is one of the younger leaders of Fatah Movement, added, “The issue of compensation is part of Resolution 194. Talking about compensational one is a selective stance. The issue of the refugees and other issues should be handled collectively.”