Commentary Magazine


Contentions

White House: Jewish “Right of Return” Should Be Negotiated

This story from Foreign Policy gives you an idea of how clueless the Obama administration is on the Middle East. During a conference call with the media, White House deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes responded to a question about Jewish “refugees” from Arab countries by saying that the Jewish “right of return” to these states should be on the table.

“Certainly the U.S., in our role, is attuned to all the concerns on both sides to include interests among Israel and others in Jewish refugees, so it is something that would come up in the context of negotiations,” said Rhodes, according to a report by The Cable’s Josh Rogin. “And certainly, we believe that ultimately the parties themselves should negotiate this. We can introduce ideas, we can introduce parameters for potential negotiation.”

Rhodes added that, “We believe those types of issues . . . could certainly be a part of that discussion and put on the table and it’s something that we would obviously be involved in.”

There are two obvious problems with this. The first is that if the White House believes that the so-called “Jewish right of return” is on the table, then that means that they view the right of return for Palestinians as a legitimate issue that should be open to negotiation. This is wrong—the Palestinian right of return means the end of Israel’s existence. It’s not something that can be on the table.

The second problem is that the administration is clearly unaware that there are no “Jewish refugees,” thanks to the state of Israel, which took them in when they were expelled from Arab and Muslim countries. Others went to the United States and Canada. All were successfully integrated into those countries rather than kept in stateless penury like the Palestinian Arabs to be used as propaganda props. But leaving that point aside, why would the administration assume that any of these Jews would want to return to undemocratic Arab states where they were treated as second-class citizens?

The White House’s statement deserves just as much mockery as Herman Cain’s the other day, if not more. Cain is a long-shot presidential candidate, who has admitted that he’s not well-versed on foreign policy. But Ben Rhodes is the guy who’s actually supposed to be advising the president on these issues, and that makes his comment far more unsettling.