Israeli diplomat Lenny Ben-David writes on National Review’s Corner:
Recently announced plans for a new, upscale Palestinian settlement in the West Bank are impressive. The projected town, some six miles north of Ramallah, will one day house some 40,000 people, making it the same size as the Israeli settlement towns of Beitar and Modiin. The settlement is named Rawabi, and Qatar is a primary investor. Details are being negotiated with Israeli authorities on issues such as free access across Israeli-controlled areas.
He goes on:
Meanwhile, in a pro-peace op-ed in the Washington Post this summer, Crown Prince Khalifa of Bahrain lamented that “far too many [Palestinians] live in refugee camps in deplorable conditions.” Such camps exist in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, and Lebanon, but Khalifa’s contention is particularly true for those living in areas under Hamas and Palestinian Authority control. Why are these Palestinians stuck in teeming refugee camps when new towns like Rawabi could be built for them?
Ben-David points out that this new town is for the elite of the West Bank. Arab leaders do not want to do anything for the suffering masses. Why? First,
Because “Palestinian” is an artificial category, and a very weakly felt one. The track record dating back to 1947 provides little evidence that the Palestinians’ new-found national identity trumps their clan, religious, political, or class differences. In Israel, we shuddered at the barbarism of the Fatah-Hamas fratricide in Gaza in 2006 — the Palestinian “wakseh” or humiliation — when Palestinian families were gunned down by other Palestinians and political opponents were thrown from tall buildings.
Beyond the Palestinians’ lack of community feeling lies the so-called “right of return.” Palestinian leaders claim that each family has a right to reoccupy the land it held before Israel’s war for independence. Settling refugees comfortably in other areas would weaken their claim to this “right,” while keeping them in camps is a harsh but effective way to maintain pressure against Israel from the international community. What stands in the way of prosperity for Palestinian-controlled areas is the deep brainwashing of Palestinian children that there must be an actual physical return to their ancestral homes, along with an international and Israeli recognition of the “injustice” done to them.
His diagnosis is better than his prescription. Briefly,
When new communities for the Palestinian refugees are established within the PA- and Hamas-controlled areas — and not before — “Palestinian Heritage Houses” will also be constructed inside a number of Israeli communities or regions.
Okay, but he doesn’t address how you get Arabs to give up the “right of return,” which is the key to the whole thing. Usefully, though, he has pointed out that there are some Arab leaders thinking about a way out.