Palestinians Worried Bush Will Negate Right of Return

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Palestinians are worried that President Bush will try to negate the so-called right of return for Palestinian refugees in his speech at the U.S.-sponsored peace conference on Tuesday, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

According to the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Bush will declare that Israel is the national homeland for the Jewish people and "Palestine" is the national home of the Palestinians.

Before the Annapolis conference began, Palestinian officials made it clear that they would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state because it would be racist and could lead to discrimination against Israeli Arabs.

Recognition of a Jewish state would end the claims of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants who say they have a right to return to homes they fled as a result of the 1948 Israeli war of independence. Those refugees have lived for years in crowded camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Hatim Abdul-Qadir of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction said he would advise Palestinians and Arabs at the Annapolis conference "to pack and return home quickly" if Israel makes an issue out of being a Jewish State.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians, including some from the Fatah faction, protested the Annapolis summit in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, Israel Radio reported.

Hamas and other Islamic groups that want to destroy Israel, not recognize it, insist that Abbas does not represent the Palestinian people at Annapolis.

In Gaza, the Popular Resistance Committees announced on Tuesday that it would rain rockets on Israel during the summit.

"We are sure that the masks will fall off the faces of the conference participants, and all will see their conspiracy against the interests of the Palestinian people," Abu Abir, a PRC spokesman, was quoted as saying.

The missiles "will carry a message to all the world that the conference does not represent the Palestinian people and will only cause damage and increase the Palestinian's burden. We are also sending the message that whoever participates in the conference from the Palestinian side barely even represents himself," Abu Abir was quoted as saying by the Israeli Internet site YNET.

Some Israelis are demonstrating against the Annapolis conference as well, fearing that Prime Minister Olmert will go to far in making concessions to the enemy.

On Tuesday, about 15,000 people prayed at the Western Wall for the Annapolis meeting to fail.

Later on Tuesday evening, thousands of Israelis packed a downtown Jerusalem square to protest the Annapolis summit.

Speaking at the rally, National Union MK Zvi Hendel called Olmert was "the most dangerous Prime Minister Israel has ever had."

Banners and signs at the rally addressed Olmert, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "The agreement between Olmert and Abu-Bluff [Abbas] Will Explode in our Faces" and "Condi, lay off Israel. We don't want another Iraq here".

Ida, an American citizen, who has been in Israel for 20 years, held a sign reading, "Bush, Destroy Terrorism, Not Israel."

The State of Israel is smaller than the state of Maryland, Ida said. She said she could not understand why Bush would want to destroy Israel by putting a terror state in its midst.

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