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Hamas, Fatah: US wants Palestinians to abandon right of return

July 20, 2009 5:02 P.M. (Updated: July 21, 2009 3:13 P.M.)
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Senior Hamas and Fatah officials stated their objections on Sunday to what they said were US suggestions that Palestinians accept a land swap with Israel and give up the right of return.

The officials said that the US is pushing for a final status agreement with Israel that does not include the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and maintains so-called Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank.

Senior Fatah official Hatem Abdul Qader, who deals with Jerusalem issues, said “the United States is trying to deceive the Palestinians through these proposals, which they think are creative, but [exist] only in their imaginations.” He called for the US to take concrete steps to stop Israel’s expansion of illegal settlements as an alternative.

The official said, “If the United States cannot take small steps in this direction, then how it can make these big leaps that will not be accepted by the Palestinians?”

“The main challenge for this administration is to stop the settlements and land confiscation, particularly canceling the Israeli decision to confiscate 139,00 dunums [of land along the Dead Sea shores and to stop the settlement plans in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.”

If the US takes these “basic steps,” it could lead to “real peace,” he said. He also said that Palestinians refugees cannot give up the right to return to their homes in what is now Israel, basing their claim on UN Resolution 194. “Going around [Resolution 194] will not lead to real peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

Meanwhile Hamas senior official Salah Bardawil said that “the issue of land swap was proposed since the Camp David negotiations … President Yasser Arafat rejected this at the time then and paid his life as a price for this rejection.”

Bardawil also said “We cannot accept anything that is proposed by the Americans regarding this issue.” He said “all Palestinian factions” believe that a resolution to the conflict should be based on an Israeli withdrawal from the land it occupied in 1967 (the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem), the creation of a Palestinian state, and the realization of the right of return.

He also stated Hamas’ “categorical rejection” of the alleged American proposals. “It’s a waste of time for the US administration headed by [Barack] Obama to begin its political maneuvers with a rejected argument.”
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