The editors of the Jerusalem Post expressed concerns felt by many Israelis about the upcoming George Bush sponsored peace conference dealing with Middle Eastern issues. The editorial noted that Arafat in 1987 rejected terrorism and expressed similar views in signing the 1993 Oslo accords. However, after these statements, “years of vicious suicide bombings ensued as did the rise of Hamas, which openly embraces terror and rejects Israel’s right to exist within its borders.” A Jerusalem Post correspondent obtained a copy of a letter from Abu Sitta, spokesperson for Palestinian refugees, in which he called for rejecting Israel’s claims to inhabit Palestinian land based on historical and biblical rights. He also warned against abandoning “the right of return after decades of fighting.”
Two issues emerge from the editorial — trust and refugees. Israel has ever right not to be completely trustful, but Palestinian leaders also have a right to be distrustful. One can not undo the past or the immediate present, but must focus on negotiation and compromise which point to the future. Each side has a long list of how the other side has betrayed past agreements. All successful compromise agreements require both parties to tear up such lists and deal with solving problems. The issue of refugee return is complex, but Arabs sometimes forget there are two sets of refugees — Palestinians who fled their land in 1948 and Jews who fled Arab nations in the forties and early fifties because they feared for their lives. The 600,000 Palestinians who left now number in the millions. Israel can not accept such numbers and still remain a majority Jewish nation. Palestinian refugees have not only grievances against Israel, but also toward fellow Arabs who have done nothing to provide jobs and full citizenship rights. Perhaps, a compromise might entail having Israel settlers leave the West Bank and turn over to Palestinian refugees their houses. This would not completely resolve the Palestinian refugee question, but, then again, no Arab nation has offered any financial compensation to Jews who left Arab nations.