President Bush did the right thing this week when he told Palestinian refugees they can forget the so-called “right of return” and any future plans to move to Israel.

Their future lies only in “the establishment of a Palestinian state and the settling of Palestinian refugees there rather than in Israel,” he said.

The president twice referred to Israel as a Jewish state. Any plan that would entertain the notion of millions of Arabs settling in Israel would, of course, alter the fundamental character of the country.

Bush did not explicitly say that the United States supports Israel keeping some of its large Jewish communities on the West Bank – home to about a quarter million Israelis – but he endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan to withdraw the few thousand settlers from the Gaza Strip.

Why is it important to dispense with the idea of “the right of return”? And why is it important for Israel to maintain Jewish communities on the West Bank?

Any other alternative would amount to a green light for anti-Semitic ethnic cleansing in the Middle East – something the region has witnessed far too much over the past 50 years.

Yasser Arafat has promoted the “right of return” as one more tactic in his ultimate goal for the destruction of the state of Israel. He knows it is impossible for millions claiming Arab refugee status to prove claims their property was ever taken from them. He knows the tiny Jewish state could easily be overwhelmed by Arabs laying claim to real estate or citizenship in Israel. He knows that the so-called “right of return” amounts to his “final solution” – a one-state solution that would permit the vastly out-numbered Jews in the Middle East to be voted out of their own country.

Likewise, it is imperative for Israel to protect its well-established Jewish communities in the West Bank, traditional Jewish lands, because the Palestinian Authority is on record as insisting no Jews be allowed to live in its future Palestinian Arab state.

This is one of the great untold stories of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arafat and his allies demand that all Jews get out of the country they are attempting to create.

In any other part of the world, this kind of racist, anti-Semitic effort at ethnically cleansing a region would be roundly condemned by all civilized people. Yet, because most people simply don’t understand the clear, official plan by the Arab leaders to force out all Jews from the new Palestinian state, Arafat retains a degree of sympathy, even political support, from much of the world.

Think about what I am saying: It is the official policy of the Palestinian Authority that all Jews must get off the land! Why is the United States supporting the creation of a new, racist, anti-Semitic hate state? Why is the civilized world viewing this as a prescription for peace in the region? Why is this considered an acceptable idea?

Is there any other place in the world where that kind of official policy of racism and ethnic cleansing is tolerated – even condoned?

Why are the rules different in the Middle East? Why are the rules different for Arabs? Why are the rules different for Muslims?

Would America consider it acceptable if the new Iraqi government said the few Jews remaining in Iraq would have to leave? Would America consider it acceptable if the new Iraqi governing council said Christians would have to go?

Of course not. So why – even before a Palestinian state is created – why do we accept as a fait accompli that Jews should be forced off their land in the coming state of Palestine?

Why are U.S. tax dollars supporting the racist, anti-Semitic entity known as the Palestinian Authority?

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