Over the past week, heated discussions took place, at the highest levels of the government of Israel, as to whether Israeli “settlers” would be welcome to live in a Palestinian state.
Almost 18 years ago, Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the PLO and the first president of the Palestinian Authority, provided a clear answer to that question
On November 28, 1996, Thanksgiving eve in the US, I covered and recorded an unusual session of 10 Israelis from Judea who met with Yasser Arafat at a home in Bethlehem.
To summarize the purpose of the meeting in two words, one participant described it as “reality testing.”
This unofficial “settler delegation” asked Arafat very specific questions as to how Arafat defined the status of Israeli “settlers” in the Palestinian State that he envisioned.
Arafat went around the room, asking where each guest where he or she lived. He listened intently and wrote down the name of each Jewish community: Elazar, Migdal Oz, Kfar Etzion, Neve Daniel, Efrat, Rosh Tzurim, Tekoa, Kiryat Arba and Hebron.
After examining the list, Arafat looked around the room and said to the participant in the dialogue that “each of you can stay where you are. You did not take any Arab lands. You displaced no Arabs. But if you were from Ramle or Lod, then you would have to leave your settlement”. Arafat went on to expound upon his world view and how he differentiated between “Israeli settlements” and “illegal Israel settlements”.
According to Arafat, a “settlement” was where Israeli Jews chose to live, in an area that did not uproot any Arabs, and went on to say that this kind of settlement does not bother the Palestinians. However, Arafat went on to say, that “illegal settlements” are the ones built which replaced Arab villages – in other words, the Arab villages that were lost in 1948..
Arafat’s definition of.”illegal settlements” is now the theme of new Palestinian Authority education text books and the theme of new Palestinian media outlets.
Hence, the intense PA anger over Jewish neighborhoods that expand in Acre, Jaffa and Ramle, described in the PA media as “illegal” Israeli settlements..
Each of the ten Palestinian terror attacks against Netanya, were described in the PA media as an attack on an “illegal Israeli settlement”.
When a mother and her two small children were murdered by an Arab terrorist in Kibbutz Metzer, the PA characterized the victims as “illegal settlers”.
PA school books replace all Israeli city names with the names of Palestinian villages.
Daily activities in the PA schools, especially in the UNRWA facilities which serve the descendents of Arab refugees from 1948, focus on teaching grandchildren and great grandchildren of Arabs who fled their homes in the 1948 war that they must prepare to take back their homes, at all costs.
Invoking Arafat principles, the “settlers” welcome, in theory, in a Palestinian State would be those who live in Judea and Samaria and new neighborhoods of Jerusalem, because they did not uproot Arab villages.
At the same time, the PA openly declares that it will lead a war against Israeli “illegal settlements”- cities, villages, and collective farms which replaced Arab villages after the battles of 1948…Not where many people thought where “illegal settlements” are located.