Refugees / Israeli Perspective

Most Israelis blame the Palestinians and Arab states for creating and perpetuating the Palestinian refugee situation. They note that Israel’s War of Independence from 1948-49 began when Arab states rejected the United Nations Partition Plan and attacked Israel, and that Palestinians either left their homes by choice or were encouraged to do so by Arab armies expecting a quick victory. Although there are a variety of historical accounts, the prevailing Israeli understanding is that forceful displacement did not occur as a strategy, and to the extent that it may have occurred, it was anecdotal, and had legitimate wartime rationale.

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According to the Israeli perspective, Palestinian refugees have few or no legitimate grievances. Israelis accuse the Palestinians of inflating the number of refugees, and (along with the Arab States and United Nations) exploiting the issue for political gain, needlessly making new generations of refugees, instead of resettling them in other countries as other communities have done. Israelis reject the notion that the descendants of the 750,000 1948-49 refugees should be considered refugees themselves, and argue that no other refugee population enjoys a comparable right of return for subsequent generations. Israelis hold different interpretations of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and international law and reject Palestinian return rights — both legally and practically. Many Israelis also believe that if Palestinian refugees are to be compensated, then so should the reported 856,000 Jewish refugees from Arab states — whose lives were upended and assets were seized when they were forced to flee during the same period. 

 

For Israelis, the possibility of millions of Palestinians moving to Israel through a ‘right of return’ would jeopardize, if not overturn, the Jewish majority in Israel that underpins its Jewish and democratic characters and its status as the homeland of the Jewish people. To mitigate this possibility, Israel demands that the Palestinians formally recognize the Jewish character of Israel, and declare an end of conflict and all claims with Israel. 

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