The latest proposal for a Palestine-Israel settlement seems not to be receiving a lot of enthusiasm from the Palestinian and Arab sides. Or from Europe either.

In the past, there have been more hopeful moments, such as after Oslo. However, one massive problem at the time was the insistence on a right of return. Regardless of one's sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, it is hard to see any circumstances under which Israel could allow a return of the 5M+ (if one counts descendents) Palestinians to Israel proper (i.e. the Israeli half of a two state solution). This would be political suicide as the new arrivals would have the electoral majority.

Since Oslo, have any Palestinian officials indicated flexibility, perhaps by limiting the numbers, applying it to the (future) Palestinian half of the 2 state solution or accepting (possibly international) monetary compensation? Certainly, while the principle of a right of return in places like Yugoslavia have generally been promoted, in practice not much seems to have been enforced to reverse the actual dispersals and there seems to be a tacit acceptance that not all things can be fixed.

Mahmud Abbas talked about flexibility in 2012, but corrected to mean at a personal level, which means little.

If no compromise is possible on the full right of return, it would seem that even a much more even-handed proposal than Trump's won't be accepted from the Palestinian side while the Israelis have understandable reasons not to accept unlimited returns, even if they were to drastically sweeten their offer otherwise.

Have any credible/influential Palestinian/Arabs indicated that that subject would be up for compromise? Even unofficially?

Edit: emphasis is on post-Oslo timeline.

  • 4
    I'm unclear if you are asking about the Palestinian government, the Palestinian people, or about any individual Arab. Could you decide on one and make the body and the title match that?
    – Peter
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 14:18
  • Didn't the 2012 Palestinian authority "correction" move further toward deadlock, saying in effect that no one has the right to compromise the right of return? Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 19:51
  • Would granting 5m people the right to return result in the return of 5m people? It's not like the Law of Return has resulted in every Jew moving to Israel. Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 6:45
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    "not a lot of enthusiasm" -- a slight understatement. :)
    – Barmar
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 12:44
  • What right of return in Yugoslavia? I am not familiar with this, and I am a bit puzzled as to how it would be similar to any provision that might be made for Palestinians.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 6:14

3 Answers 3


Have any credible/influential Palestinian/Arabs indicated that that subject would be up for compromise? Even unofficially?


According to this BBC article:

  1. In 2002, Sari Nusseibeh, an academic and former representative of the PLO in Jerusalem controversially proposed a settlement where Palestinian refugees would only be able to return to a Palestinian state.
  2. "Geneva Accord" peace framework, proposed by former Israeli minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo in 2003, relinquished the full right of return.

I can add yet another unofficial Israeli-Palestinian agreement:

  1. Beilin–Abu Mazen agreement, where Mahmud Abbas agreed that Palestinian right of return would be implemented in future Palestinian independent state.

In the past, there have been more hopeful moments, such as after Oslo. However, one massive problem at the time was the insistence on a right of return.

Another way to characterize the situation is that Israel's refusal to allow the Arab Palestinian refugee population to return to their former homes is a massive problem. Regardless of one's sympathy for the Jewish Israeli desire to remain an electoral majority in Israel, it is hard to see any circumstances under which the Palestinian side would give up this right.

I hope you see my point. On to your question!

The position that all former residents and citizens of the British Mandate of Palestine have a right to return was first formulated in article 11 in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 from 1948:

  1. Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible;

The Arab states initially rejected the resolution but have since come to embrace it as a cornerstone of the peace process. The resolution has enjoyed wide international support and has been reaffirmed 135 times between 1948 and 2000 in the General Assembly.

As far as I know, nothing has fundamentally changed since 1948. The refugee problem wasn't discussed during the 1994 Oslo Accords, but that doesn't mean that the Palestinian side was willing to give up the right of return -- only that the question was postponed.

The Arab peace initiative (API) from 2002 called for a "just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem:

b. Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

The API was endorsed by both Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas, but rejected by Israel. In part, because of the above sentence.

The BDS Movement, calling for an international boycott of Israel, writes in its FAQ:

What does BDS aim to achieve? Does it call for a one state or a two state solution?

The BDS movement aims to pressure Israel to respect international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall International law recognises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights as occupied by Israel.

  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.

  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

These are three basic rights without which the Palestinian people cannot exercise its inalienable right to self-determination.

The BDS Movements position is, by Palestinian standards, moderate. I.e it is safe to say that the mainstream Palestinian position on the right of the return is the same as it has always been.

In fact, the Palestinian side has argued that the right of return is an individual right:

Finally, in another important parallel to the Palestinian case, in both the Bosnia and Kosovo repatriation schemes devised by the international community, individual and collective rights were jointly protected. In both Bosnia and Kosovo, “the collective rights to an independent entity or statehood were preserved, along with a mechanism for individual refugees to assert their claims to repatriate and obtain restitution and/or compensation. Each of these situations involved the establishment of claims commissions as part of a negotiated settlement, but the right of the individual to assert his/her claim was preserved independently of the outcome of the self-determination issue.”

What that means, they argue, is that the Palestinian leadership cannot use the right of return as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Israel. The legal obligations on the state remain.

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    "nothing has fundamentally changed since 1948" - Well, the US changing its stance to no longer recognise the third and fourth generation descendants of refugees as refugees is a pretty big change
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 18:57
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    "it is hard to see any circumstances under which the Palestinian side would give up this right." actually, they have consistently flirted with giving it up, in return for cash and symbolic concessions, as part of a larger deal.
    – Colin
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 20:28
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    @Colin - Presumably because anyone with half a wit of sense can see that it's an unachievable aim. They might as well ask Israel to dismantle itself and move to Nevada
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 20:34
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica I don't understand? You asked for what the current Palestinian position is. There are of course many positions (as there are in every society), but the one with the most support, which is also the official position of virtually every Palestinian organization (Hamas, Fatah, BDS, BADIL, ...), is the one I have described. Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 20:35
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    This answer is very misleading IMHO. This answer mainly discusses the right of return of Palestinians who lived in what's now Israel, whereas the question is mainly about the right of return of their descendants. If you think that those are same issue, then you should say so explicitly; otherwise, you should make explicit which one you're talking about.
    – ruakh
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 23:55

Have any credible/influential Palestinian/Arabs indicated that that subject would be up for compromise? Even unofficially?


The fundamental principles for Palestinians are

  1. The right of return
  2. East Jerusalem as a capital
  3. the right to resistance


  • 2
    it is worth noting that the linked Wikipedia article bares a "neutrality of this article is disputed" label Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 14:17
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    +1 for the succinct answer. Respectully however, the right to resistance component in Thawabit seems less applicable to a peace agreement than the rest. if there was a peace agreement, then that right would be superseded (ignoring extremists who dissented), would it not? Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 19:12
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    Not really a correct answer. Compromise over the right of return has been a standard facet of the peace negotiations, just not one that is trumpeted by the Palestinian leadership.
    – Colin
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 20:18
  • There are more than one Palestinian. Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 6:40
  • @Colin I disagree as this seems reasonably indicative of the Palestinian public's current opinion. Remember that there were a number of cases where a Palestinian envoy or official had to backtrack when they got accused of selling out. This doesn't invalidate Sharon's answer but it is certainly a qualifier to it. Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 17:11

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