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The War of Return

How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace

Adi Schwartz, Einat Wilf


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Two prominent Israeli liberals argue that for the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to end with peace, Palestinians must come to terms with the fact that there will be no "right of return."

In 1948, seven hundred thousand Palestinians were forced out of their homes by the first Arab-Israeli War. More than seventy years later, most of their houses are long gone, but millions of their descendants are still registered as refugees, with many living in refugee camps. This group—unlike countless others that were displaced in the aftermath of World War II and other conflicts—has remained unsettled, demanding to settle in the state of Israel. Their belief in a "right of return" is one of the largest obstacles to successful diplomacy and lasting peace in the region.

In The War of Return, Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf—both liberal Israelis supportive of a two-state solution—reveal the origins of the idea of a right of return, and explain how UNRWA - the very agency charged with finding a solution for the refugees - gave in to Palestinian, Arab and international political pressure to create a permanent “refugee” problem. They argue that this Palestinian demand for a “right of return” has no legal or moral basis and make an impassioned plea for the US, the UN, and the EU to recognize this fact, for the good of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

A runaway bestseller in Israel, the first English translation of The War of Return is certain to spark lively debate throughout America and abroad.

Praise For The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace

“Schwartz and Wilf, both of the left, have written a must-read about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the reason it won’t be settled anytime soon. A great book and an important one.” —Ben Shapiro, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Wire

"[A] convincing and essential book." —Bret Stephens, New York Times

The War of Return eloquently explains why the Palestinian demand for ‘return’ has continually sabotaged chances for a two-state solution. The historical amnesia of the contemporary West, coupled with the hypocrisy of Arab states, have artificially sustained a cause that should have long ago been discredited by all those hoping to solve the Palestinian tragedy. A major contribution to the very short bookshelf of essential books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.” —Yossi Klein Halevi, author of Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor and Dreamers

The War of Return looks frankly and perceptively at the most prominent obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace: the Palestinian demand that the world and Israel recognize the Palestinian refugees' ‘right of return,’ and Israel's refusal to accept that ‘right’ and a mass refugee return. Anyone seriously interested in the ongoing Arab-Zionist conflict needs to know what Schwartz and Wilf spell out.” —Benny Morris, author of Righteous Victims and The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949

All Points Books, 9781250252760, 304pp.

Publication Date: April 28, 2020

About the Author

ADI SCHWARTZ is an Israeli researcher and author. His work focuses on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israeli history and current affairs.

EINAT WILF is a former Israeli politician who served as a member of Knesset for Independence and the Labor Party. She is one of Israel's leading public intellectuals.