'Moderate' Palestinian leaders stress hard-line positions

Sunday, May 15, 2011 |  Ryan Jones

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas marked "Nakba Day" - the Day of Catastrophe on which Israel was reborn as a nation state - by reiterating his hard-line positions on future control of Jerusalem and the introduction of millions of foreign-born Arabs into Israel proper.

"We will never accept a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital," Abbas told a group of Palestinian dignitaries in Ramallah on Saturday.

Address the "right" of millions of so-called "Palestinian refugees" to take up residence both in a future Palestinian state and within the borders of sovereign Israel, Abbas stated:

"The return is a practice, not a slogan. Palestine is for us. ...The Palestinian leadership will never give up the right of return."

Abbas is praised by Washington and other Western powers as a moderate Arab leader and Israel's best hope for peace.

Abbas played to the West's view of him on Saturday by telling his guests, "We believe in the two-state solution. ...We have accepted this solution for more than 17 years."

But Israelis argue that Abbas' hard-line demands belie his commitment to a genuine, lasting peace with Israel.

By seeking to flood Israel with millions of Arabs claiming refugee status, Abbas aims to demographically destroy the Jewish state, a goal his predecessor and mentor, Yasser Arafat, readily admitted to.

Abbas' adherence to this goal explains his refusal to meet the simple Israeli demand of recognizing Israel as the "Jewish state."

Likewise, redividing Jerusalem would only return it to the violence-filled days of 1948-1967, when Jordan illegally occupied the city's eastern half, and likely lead to many Israelis moving to other parts of the country.

Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Israelis oppose dividing Jerusalem, even as part of a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians. And while there are many left-wing politicians who are ready to divide Jerusalem, none of them are supportive of a Palestinian "right of return."

So long as Abbas clings to these demands, no Israeli government will ever be able to sign a final status peace agreement with him.

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