I can stand on the hilltops and shout -- but it would not bring peace (and a solution) one step closer.
To my mind, waiting for a solution in a hundred years, while the conflict and the misery continue, is not really moral.
DEAR SALMAN, I have listened attentively to your presentation.
You say that Israel could easily absorb all the refugees by putting them into the Negev, which is almost empty. That is quite true.
The vast majority of Israelis would reject that, because they are fiercely resolved to have a large Jewish majority in Israel. But I also ask myself: What is the logic of that?
When I met with Yasser Arafat in Beirut during the war of 1982, I also visited several Palestinian refugee camps. I asked many refugees whether they wanted to return to Israel. Most said that they wanted to return to their villages (which were eradicated long ago) but not anywhere else in Israel.
What is the sense of putting them into the harsh conditions of the desert in a Zionist dominated and Hebrew speaking country, far from their original homes? Would they want that?
Arafat and his successors limit their aim to a "just and AGREED solution," giving the Israeli government a veto right. That means, in practice, at most the return of a symbolic number.
My latest proposal is for the Israeli president to apologize and express the profound regret of the Israeli people for its part in the creation and prolongation of the tragedy.
The Israeli government must recognize the moral right of the refugees to return.
Israel should organize the return of 50,000 refugees every year for 10 years. (I am almost alone in Israel in demanding this number. Most peace groups would reduce that to 100,000 altogether.)
All the other refugees should receive compensation on the lines of the compensation paid by Germany to the Jewish victims. (No comparison, of course.)
With the foundation of the State of Palestine, they would receive Palestinian passports and be able to settle there, in their country.
In the not too distant future, when the two states, Israel and Palestine, shall be finally living side by side, with open borders and with their capitals in Jerusalem, perhaps within a region-wide framework, the problem will lose its sting.
IT HURTS me to write this letter. For me, the refugees are no abstract "problem," but human beings with human faces. But I will not lie to you.
I would be honored to live next to you (even in the Negev desert)