Students Reject H. Clinton’s Portrayal of Oslo Peace Process

Students Reject H. Clinton’s Portrayal of Oslo Peace Process May 11, 2024

ChrisO’s modification of 2004 UN Map of Israel

Months ago, students objected to, and walked out of, Hilary Clinton’s class at Columbia University due to what she said about the Palestinian rejection of her husband Bill Clinton’s Oslo Peace Process. She blamed Palestinians for rejecting that offer, put forth by US President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

On Thursday, Ms. Clinton appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” She said students involved in these many college demonstrations–calling for Israel to stop the war in Gaza and perhaps divesture of their school’s investments which help Israel–“don’t know very much.” She said of Yasir Arafat, head of the PLO, of his rejection of that proposal, “It’s one of the great tragedies of history that he was unable to say yes.”

Clinton is getting a lot of objection about this on social media and elsewhere. Why? It is a major mischaracterization of Arafat’s rejection. He had said plainly, “I can’t sell it.” He explained that Palestinian leaders would not accept it. Why not? That is the part, and very important part, that Ms. Clinton seems to be ignoring in this discussion.

Palestinians could not accept the offer for a Palestinian state in the Oslo Peace Process because it did not include a very important element to Palestinians–“the right of return.” That refers to the approximately 750,000 Palestinians who had fled from the path of war in 1948-1949, when Israel then became a state. Most of those Palestinians fled to Jordan to escape only with their lives. They had left houses and land they owned to eventually live in UN shelter camps for decades without ever being compensated by Israelis for their losses. Ms. Clinton therefore got it backwards. It is this Palestinian disenfranchisement that is “one of the great tragedies of history.”

Palestinians have always said that for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be solved, there must be a two-state solution than includes “the right of return.” This means that the now millions of Palestinians (those who fled and now their descendants) deserve the right to return to their lands, which in 1949 became part of Israel. But Israeli leaders have always said that they cannot allow this “right of return” because it would cause their nation to have more Palestinians than Jews. They have always said that Israel must remain a Jewish state, meaning the majority of its citizens are Jews.

I accept this Jewish argument, and it is one of the many reasons I say the traditional two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been a non-starter. It is based pretty much on the argument of demographics. Most Palestinians live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, therefore that is where the Palestinian state should be located. But there are way too many other arguments that nullify that so that this traditional two-state solution should have been thrown in the junk pile a long time ago.

In my proposal, put forth in my book, Palestine Is Coming: The Revival of Ancient Philistia (1990), “the right of return” would not affect citizenship in Israel. Rather, the nature of “the right of return” would be changed to “the right of Palestinians to return to their ancestral land,” that is, “the land of the Philistines.” It was located only in the Mediterranean coastal plain, which is where I think the Palestinian state should be.

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