The Settler-Refugee Exchange Program

Last night I was treated to a slideshow by my friends who had visited Palestine to help harvest olives. Their trip was part of a sponsored group sent to prevent Israeli settlers from confiscating Palestinian olive farms. They came back from their trip with a biased perspective because they had ONLY seen the burdens of the Palestinians.

Ordinary Palestinians, farmers, professionals, business people and workers are indeed treated badly at the hands of the settlers and the ultra-orthodox political parties in Israel. They are also treated poorly by their own Palestinian governments. On the other hand, ordinary Israelis live in fear of terrorists every day. I have one Israeli client as well as an Israeli colleague. Both tell of having to eye everyone with suspicion when they enter a pizza restaurant or a bus shelter. My colleague was a psychotherapist who worked with children who struggled with PTSD developed as Hamas rockets rained down on their city.

As I often do, I recommend Richard North Patterson’s novel, Exile. In the guise of a mystery, it investigates the pain and suffering on both–no, on all sides. It shows the need for broader understanding of the burdens born by ordinary Palestinians and Israelis alike–but also the burdens of the world because of this issue.

The following is the text of journalist Ray Hanania’s proposal for a peace plan, as referenced in Peace Plan: Trading settler Israelis for refugee Palestinians, by Bradley Burston.


The Settler-Refugee Exchange Program

Offered by Ray Hanania
Candidate for President of Palestine, Yalla Peace Party
To be officially announced Friday Dec. 4, 2009


The two major challenges facing Israelis and Palestinians in achieving peace are the issues of the Israeli settlements and settlers, and the Palestinian Refugees and land lost.

There are today about 500,000 Jewish Settlers from Israel living in 171
Settlements and 102 Outposts built since 1967 in the West Bank.

The Palestinian refugee population was originally estimated by the United
Nations at 750,000 and has increased as a result of war, occupation and
population growth, to approximately 4.6 million. The camps are spread
throughout the Middle East.

This plan proposes a solution based on compensation, an exchange of land, an exchange of people and an exchange of apologies.


As a Palestinian, it is not my place to reason and explain Israel’s
settlement policies. I can only speak from a Palestinian perspective on the quagmires and offer my beliefs.

As a Palestinian, I believe the Palestinian refugees and their descendants have an absolute right to return to their original homes and lands that were vacated by them either by military force or as a result of fear or coercion based on the International Rule of Law, on principle, on morality and on human dignity. Under normal circumstances, this issue would have been resolved in the early stages of the conflict had it been properly addressed by Israel and the Arab World.

But it was not addressed. And despite laws and years of struggle, no refugee uuhas been returned to their homes or lands. In fact, the refugees have remained in limbo suffering in despair and exploited by all as political pawns.

I recognize the sacrifices the Palestinian refugees have made over the years by remaining in the refugee camps as a reminder to a world that refused to recognize the existence of Palestinians as a people and that the Palestinian people do exist. We are a people. We are Palestinian. To have had them assimilate into Arab World and societies around the world would have conveniently erased the need for justice and resolution of this situation.

But today is not 1948. Lives have come and gone. Events have occurred and
circumstances on the landscape of the conflict have changed dramatically.
Their homes and villages simply no longer exist.

There are millions of Jews who have immigrated to Israel from other
countries who now live in homes once occupied by Palestinians either
voluntarily or fleeing persecution. Both have seen new generations arrive
and old pass. Lives have been built and we cannot simply tear them down.

As Palestinians , we have a moral responsibility to tell the Palestinian
Refugees the truth. We cannot tell the Palestinian refugees with a certain heart that they will return to their original homes and their lands under the current situation nor through conflict. Despite all the Rules of Law and principles of conflict. The tragedy is that the Arab World has failed to prosecute that Right of Return to achieve a legal resolution.

The Palestinian Refugees have carried the bulk of the burden because of our failure. The Palestinian Refugees are being made to pay the price for the failure of the World to resolve their disputes and conflicts. They are being made to suffer. They live in destitution with no real hope, festering in anger knowing that they have been abandoned and that even their “champions” are merely exploiting their suffering for their own personal activist gains.

The choice is simple: Either they remain in the destitution of those camps; or, they be given a realistic alternative to live their lives in dignity, in pride and with real hope for a future. Their children deserve that chance at life.

If we are ready to accept peace based on compromise and accept two-states as the solution, then it is a fundamental and unavoidable necessity to accept compromise on the Right of Return.

We will achieve compromise on these thorny issues through compensation, land exchange and people exchange.



A Compensation Fund must be established to compensate them for their lose. The fund can be used to assist the Palestinian Refugees to resettle in new homes in a) Palestine b) the Arab World c) in another country outside of the Middle East of their choosing.


Israel must acknowledge its role in creating the tragedy by establishing a “Jewish” State that by its principles excluded non-Jewish rights. Israel must acknowledge it prevented the refugees from returning and in many cases forced them to leave. Rather than acknowledge the suffering of the refugees, Israel has adopted law after law to prevent their return, while offering Jews in other lands to “return” to Israel.

Israel’s Government must acknowledge its role – not total responsibility,
but its role.

Israel’s Government must be prepared to assert the highest level of
Jewishness if in fact Israel is truly a Jewish State, to seek atonement and offer a genuine apology to the Palestinian Refugees.

This apology is in the context also of mutual apologies that both sides must be prepared to make and is articulated in my Campaign Platform already.

Apologizing for the tragedies and sufferings that we have both brought upon each other is essential to reconciliation. Peace is about reconciliation and the ability, more importantly, for Israelis and Palestinians to demonstrate compassion and humanity for their fellow man.


The conflict has also created circumstances in which Jews from Arab
countries either fled or were forced out of their homes and lands.

A fund should be created to help compensate Jews for their lost lands and
properties, too.

It is essential that the Arab World also offer its apology in the same
context to the Jews who now reside in Israel for losing their lands and

The Arab World, and Israel, must be prepared to allow Palestinians and Jews to travel to and from their countries.


Once the compensation funds are established, we need to interlink the
resolution of the refugees with the issue of the land and settlements and
citizenship rights.

We need to be imaginative as well as to be ready to speak the truths that we have avoided in the past. It’s not easy to embrace truth and to accept
reality over demands based on law. Time has caused great changes. But, if we accept compromise, two-states and peace, we must be ready, on both sides, to accept compromise.

Israel must be ready to compromise on the settlements and the Palestinians must be ready to compromise on the refugees.

In exchange for compromise on the Right of Return of the Palestinian
Refugees, Israel must be ready to freeze all settlement activity and
withdraw from settlements. How many settlements should it withdraw from?

The details can and should be decided by Israel and Palestinians through
negotiations. But, we can accept a framework for that resolution and create an atmosphere of peace through which resolution of these details can be facilitated.



For every settlement that Israel seeks to keep in the original West Bank,
Israel must be prepared to give Palestine and equal amount of land mass from Israel contiguous with the West Bank. Israel must trade dunam-for-dunam land it keeps, surrendering an equal area of land to Palestine.


For every Jewish settler living in the settlements that Israel keeps, Israel must be ready to permit that number of Palestinian Refugees to return to Israel, (who wish to return).

Israel will provide those Palestinians compensation through the Compensation Fund to build homes, and land on which to build their homes in Israel. Those Palestinian refugees would be given full rights of Israeli citizenship, but would enter Israel through its immigration procedures.

This exchange plan must be completed in five years, with 50 percent of the population allowed to enter Israel within two years of the program

They would be treated the same way as Jews who return to Israel and be given the same benefits and compensation and support from the Israeli government.

If Israel seeks to retain all of the settlements, then Israel must be
prepared to allow 462,000 Palestinian refugees to return to live in Israel, should they chose to do so, as Israeli citizens.

The remaining Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return, through the Compensation Fund, to the new Palestine State, or be permitted to travel to any country that wishes to accept them. The choice is up to them.

The Arab World would be required to provide a home and land in their
countries for every Palestinian seeking resettlement in this plan.
Israel can reduce the number of Refugees it accepts by returning settlers
and disbanding existing settlements. The final number is up to them.


Israeli settlers will be given the choice to remain in settlements returned to Palestine, or accept compensation and return to Israel.

Settlers in settlements returned to Palestine would be given the choice to become Palestinian citizens. Their rights would be fully respected and
safeguarded. Settlers would have to apply to the State of Palestine for
citizenship in the same way that Palestinian Refugees would be required to meet Israeli immigration standards.

Those Israeli settlers who choose to remain in their homes in areas in the West Bank not annexed by Israel will become citizens of Palestine. Both Palestine and Israel will allow dual citizenship to accommodate Palestinians returning to Israel and Israelis remaining in Palestine. Both these categories of people would have no special privileges, and would be subject to the laws of their resident country.


The existing Palestinian Refugee camps could remain but the refugees who
take compensation would be urged to use that funding to rebuild their homes in or outside of the refugee camps. Each of the Arab countries would be required to accept and incorporate those refugees who either do not return to Israel under the Settler-Refugee Exchange Program or return to Palestine into their country. Those Palestinians who wish to remain would be given full citizenship in the country of their refugee settlement.

UNRWA, which now manages the affairs of the Palestinian Refugees, would
supervise this process with support from Israel, the State of Palestine, the Arab and Islamic World, and the United States and the Western World.

Eventually, UNRWA would be dissolved when the last refugee is settled.


For Palestinians, there is no alternative to resolve the issue of Israeli
Settlements in a satisfactory manner.

For Israelis, there is no alternative to resolve the issue of Palestinian
Refugees in a satisfactory manner.

This plan offers a creative compromise and in the context of compromise, all of the unaddressed issues can be resolved if Israelis and Palestinians work together towards peace.

Those Palestinians who insist that there is no compromise on the Right of
Return are rejecting compromise and peace. Those Israelis who insist there is no compromise on the settlements are rejecting compromise and peace.

I believe that if fairly presented to the Palestinian Refugees and to the
Israeli settlers, this plan can work.

If we believe in peace based on compromise, we must be ready to embrace
genuine compromise that is fair, realistic and that can work.


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