Global Policy Forum

The Sacrifice: Palestine's Coveted Right to Return


By Leonard Doyle

October 14, 2003

The deal took two and a half years of subterfuge and secret talks to negotiate and is 50-pages long, but the core of the unofficial peace plan finalised at the weekend is an agreement to give up the right of return for Palestinian refugees in exchange for Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif.

Despite the scathing reaction from Israel's government to an agreement forged by its enemies inside and out of Israel, the deal appears to have the imprimatur of Yasser Arafat, who was fully briefed on the details. The Palestinians were represented by former cabinet ministers, legislators and leaders of the ruling Fatah Party.

The Geneva Accords, as the draft is being described, will be signed in Switzerland, possibly on 4 November, the anniversary of the assassination of the former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by an Israeli opponent of the peace process. The talks were financed and mediated by the Swiss Foreign Ministry and according to Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper, both sides will aggressively market the agreement.

Yesterday's ceremony in Jordan was attended by the former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin, who led the negotiating team; others included the former Israeli Labour leader Amram Mitzna, Brigadier General Giora Inbar and the author Amos Oz. On the Palestinian side, one of the negotiators, Muhammad al-Hurani, four of whose brothers are in jail in Israel, said: "We understood that Israel cannot defeat us by military means, but we also understood that we can't defeat Israel, and the solution must be political."

Mr Mitzna said: "The peace camp now has an agenda. We've finished the easy part, now we've come to the hard part to return to Israel and knock on every door, and convince the public." Oz said: "Those who attack us will undoubtedly ask: 'What have you done? You've given them everything in exchange for a few embraces' ... But what we have done today will determine the future."

The main points are:

  • The Palestinians will concede the right of return. Some refugees will remain in the countries where they now live, others will be absorbed by the PA, some will be absorbed by other countries and some will receive financial compensation. A limited number will be allowed to settle in Israel.
  • The Palestinians will recognise Israel as the state of the Jewish people.
  • Israel will withdraw to the 1967 borders, except for certain territorial exchanges.
  • Jerusalem will be divided, with Arab neighbourhoods of east Jerusalem becoming part of the Palestinian state. Jewish areas of east Jerusalem, as well as West Bank suburbs of Givat Ze'ev, Ma'aleh Adumim and the historic part of Gush Etzion, will be part of Israel.
  • The Temple Mount will be Palestinian, but an international force will ensure access for all visitors of all faiths. Jewish prayer will not be permitted on the Mount, nor will archaeological digs.
  • The Western Wall will remain under Jewish sovereignty and the "Holy Basin" will be under international supervision.
  • The settlements of Ariel, Efrat and Har Homa will be part of the Palestinian state. Israel will transfer parts of the Negev near Gaza, but not Halutza, to Palestinians in exchange for parts of the West Bank.
  • The Palestinians will pledge to prevent terror and incitement and disarm all militias. Their state will be demilitarised and border crossings will be supervised by an international, but not Israeli, force.
  • The agreement will replace all United Nations resolutions and previous agreements.


Yasser Abed Rabbo

Born in 1945 in Jaffa, Mr Abed Rabbo has worked alongside Yasser Arafat since the 1960s. In 1968 he co-founded the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a leftist group in the PLO, and later Fida, the Palestinian Democratic Union. He became the PLO's deputy secretary in 1973, and headed the information and culture department from 1973 to 1994, when he became Palestinian Authority Information Minister. He was part of the Palestinian negotiation team in 1988-1990, and in the Madrid and Oslo peace processes. Married with two children, he has an MA in economics and political science from the American University in Cairo.

Yossi Beilin

Yossi Beilin was born in 1948 in Israel. After writing as a journalist and editorial board member of Davar, he received his PhD in political science from Tel-Aviv University. Mr Beilin was a spokesman for the Israel Labour Party from 1977-1984 and was elected to the Knesset in 1988 where he served as Deputy Minister of Finance until 1990. Mr Beilin initiated the secret channel of talks that resulted in the 1993 Oslo Accords. He headed the Israeli delegation to the multilateral peace process working groups from 1992-95 and was a negotiator at the Taba talks with the Palestinians in January 2001.



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