Netanyahu seeks definitive end to Palestinian right of return: Israeli TV
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s next political goal is getting the administration of US President Donald Trump to put to bed the idea that Palestinians whose families were driven into exile during the establishment of Israel have a right to return to the Jewish State, Israel’s Hadashot TV news reported on Friday.
Israel’s political victories under Trump’s right-wing administration include the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, described by Trump himself as tantamount to taking Jerusalem “off the table” as a negotiating issue between Israelis and Palestinians.
Netanyahu said his US counterpart’s approach was “refreshing” and struck a positive tune about the prospects for peace and said there was no alternative to the US as facilitator.
Earlier this month Netanyahu backed Trump’s criticisms of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), an agency dedicated exclusively to serving Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East, and suggested that US funding to the organization be instead rerouted to the UN body responsible for all other refugees in the world.
Israel has often criticized UNRWA, accusing it of perpetuating the plight of Palestinians by allowing the descendants of first-generation Palestinian refugees — those who fled what is today Israel when it was declared an independent state in 1948 — to maintain refugee status in their host countries.
Netanyahu echoed this criticism, saying it is an “absurdity” that “there are already great-grandchildren of non-refugees” who are today treated by UNRWA as refugees.
“This is a body that was established separately 70 years ago, only for the Palestinian refugees, while there is a UN Commission to deal with the problems of the rest of the refugees in the world,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister said UNRWA aims to perpetuate “the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return’ with the aim of eliminating the State of Israel, and therefore, UNRWA must pass from this world.”
For the Palestinians, the right for descendants to return to homes they either fled or were forced out of is a prerequisite for any peace agreement with Israel, but it is a demand the Jewish state has rejected out of hand.