One issue in the Israel-Palestinian impasse involves the return of Palestinian refugees to pre-1967 Israel. It helps to understand more facts than Bob Schaible presents (“Letter to the editor: Fairness to Palestinians will bring lasting peace,” Dec. 15).

About 700,000 people left 67 years ago, many of them voluntarily getting their families out of a war zone, as happens in any war.

One historian cited by Mr. Schaible reports on a military removal strategy started in response to a situation in 1948 that included a blockade of the access road to Jerusalem, with ambushes launched from nearby villages. The Israeli army evacuated hostile Arab villages near strategic roads and borders. But in other areas, Arabs were not evacuated, and a substantial Arab population remained. The number of Arab citizens in pre-1967 Israel is now about a million. Ethnic cleansing?

U.N. peace negotiations started, soon after the cease-fire ending that war, and return of some Arab refugees was on the table. The Arab League soon forbade its members from any direct dealings with Israel, because it implied recognition of Israel, a policy that continued for decades, with no negotiations.

Meanwhile, the refugees in Arab countries were segregated for decades, with their descendants taught hatred in school, and their numbers multiplying into millions.

Refugee issues have been discussed in each round of negotiations with Palestinians, since the 1990s. No Israeli government can risk allowing large numbers to move to Israel and making Jews a minority, but Israeli governments proposed other steps that could be taken. Palestinian insistence on rights of full return has been a big factor in the collapse of negotiations, including 2000’s near-agreement on significant Israeli withdrawals.

What has happened to Palestinian refugees and their descendants in the last 67 years is tragic. It will not be solved by insisting on a full right of return.

Michael Peisner

for the Community Relations Committee, Jewish Community Alliance

Portland