The heart of the issue
One of the thorniest issues facing Israeli-Palestinian negotiators and Sec. of State John Kerry is the right of return of Palestinians to the homes and land they owned in 1948.
Israel claims the Arabs left voluntarily; Palestinians claim they were either forced or intimidated into leaving. The truth is both are right. How many left on their own and how many were forced to leave is still unclear. Under international law refugees whose homes and land were confiscated have a right to return and claim what formerly belonged to them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is adamant. He will not allow one Palestinian back into Israel under the Right of Return. Most Israelis agree with him, fearing an erosion of Jewish political power. It is important to remember that Israel was created as homeland for the Jewish people.
The PA has said it will not sign any agreement unless the Palestinians are allowed to reclaim their homes and land. Many Palestinians have family members who lived in what is now Israel for generations. They feel that the land is their birthright.
The only proposal that has a chance of being accepted is land swaps as put forward by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Under his plan land now parts of Israel whose population consist mostly of Arab citizens of Israel would become part of the Palestinian state. In exchange, the largest settlements located outside the 1967 line would remain part of Israel.
Whether the plan would be acceptable to Palestinians and the settlers who would have to either give up their land and homes or remain under Palestinian control is questionable.
Without settling the issue of the right of return, the two-state solution is doomed. Without a two-state solution the chance of a peaceful solution will fade away.