Sari Nusseibeh: Right of return should be only to Palestinian state

December 23, 2001

This appears to be a sign of moderation, breaking with mainstream Palestinian views, by Palestinian intellectual and politician Sari Nusseibeh.

-- Tom Gross


Nusseibeh: Right of return should be only to Palestinian state
By Itim / Israeli press agency
December 23, 2001

Sari Nusseibeh, the Palestinian Authority representative in Jerusalem, said Friday that it is not possible for the Palestinians to demand both an independent state and the right to return to Israel.

"I believe the Palestinians should recognize that the refugees should return to a Palestinian state, enabling them to build a new life," Nusseibeh told a Labor Party conference at Beit Sokolow in Tel Aviv, chaired by MK Yossi Beilin.

"We must exchange the old Palestinian dream for a new one, for the sake of the future," Nusseibeh said.

He told the conference that an important part of any solution to the "right of return" would be recognition by Israel that it caused the Palestinian refugee problem, even if it only admitted that its role was partial and not deliberate.

Nusseibeh joined Beilin in calling for the establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian movement to pressure leaders from both sides to make peace.

"If the leaders can't do it, the people must force them," Nusseibeh said, adding, "the two peoples must live side by side, and forge an alliance to build a common future."

Nusseibeh asserted that a future Palestinian state would enjoy freedom and democracy. He believes that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat is committed to peace, and that there is widespread support for peace among the Palestinian people.

"His speech [calling for an end to violence against Israel] proves this."

Discussing the Palestinian rejection of former prime minister Ehud Barak's proposal at Camp David, Nusseibeh said, "I don't know exactly what happened in the discussions at Camp David, but in my opinion the current intifada was not started by the Palestinians.

"I believe it was caused by a series of tragic mistakes by both sides, starting the day [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon visited the Temple Mount."

He called for a return to negotiations on the basis of the Camp David understandings.

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