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The refugee issue is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 gave birth to a large population of Palestinian refugees - men, women, and children who lost property, homes and livelihoods.

A resolution of this human tragedy, in a manner that recognizes the grievances and dignity of refugees and does not threaten the character of the State of Israel, must be one of the most important goals of the peace process. Successive peace plans - including the Clinton parameters, the Geneva Initiative, and the Arab Peace Initiative - all make clear that a solution to the issue must be found that is acceptable to both sides - respecting both the sensitivities of the Palestinian refugees and Israel's sovereign right to determine who may live within its borders. It is clear that any such solution will be found for the most part within the borders of a future Palestinian state, rather than inside Israel.

Finally, Jewish refugees from Arab countries - Jews who fled or were forced to flee their homes as Israel came into existence and thereafter - have every right to seek redress. However, resolution of such claims is not an Israeli-Palestinian issue and Jewish refugee claims do not "balance out" or erase the Palestinian refugee issue. Rather, such claims are properly bilateral issues between Israel (or France, or the U.S., or wherever the Jews in question now live) and the countries these Jews fled. It is politically cynical and morally indefensible for anyone to try to hold Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations - and a peace agreement that could end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with all this would mean for Israeli security - hostage to the resolution of these claims.

APN urges Americans and their elected officials to support a political process to resolve all issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including Palestinian refugees. APN urges them, too, to reject efforts to use the legitimate claims of Jewish refugees as a pretext for blocking an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

(Feb. 2011)