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What do the Palestinians want?

Many Palestinians, those in their 60s or older, remember being expelled from their homes inside what is now Israel but what was then Palestine, in 1947 or '48. Some of them still hold the keys to their homes that they kept as they fled, thinking they would be back in days or weeks. Many more remember the terror of being expelled from their homes in the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, finding minimal shelter in refugee camps that became home for 35 years or more. Palestinians want dignity, human rights, and a state of their own.

In 1988, in an enormous compromise, the Palestinian National Council, or parliament-in-exile, voted to accept a two-state solution that would return to Palestinians only the 22 percent of their land that had been occupied in 1967. They accepted that the other 78 percent would remain Israel. While some individual Palestinians and some small organizations still reject that historic compromise, for the vast majority of Palestinians the goal is for an independent state--a fully realized and truly independent state--in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinians also want the right for refugees to return to their homes, from wherever they were expelled. The right of return is part of international law, and Palestinians are specifically guaranteed that right by UN Resolution 194, which states that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return."

Simply an end to "the violence" is insufficient, because it would leave in place the structures of military occupation that prevent Palestinians from realizing their full national rights and their human rights to dignity and independence.