However, Toameh offers a very simple and pragmatic three stage solution, where the Palestinian refugees could:
1. Go to the future Palestinian state;
2. Resettle elsewhere, including other Arab states; and
3. Be offered compensation.
Most tellingly though, and in a statement seldom ever heard from Arabs (or the West), Toameh then asked: "and what about Jewish refugees that were forced to flee Arab nations", suggesting that the issue of Jewish refugees must also be part of any future solution.
Focusing on the problem from Arab dictatorships and their insistence on inciting their people against Israel, Toameh says that we have a problem in the West in failing to believe what people tell us.
If Hamas say they want to destroy you, you have no reason not to believe them. And if Ahmadinejad says he wants to destroy you, there's no need to start analysing what he means by that. Stop fooling ourselves and if anyone thinks that Hamas will ever recognise Israel's right to exist, you're also living in an illusion. Take it from their mouth directly...the PLO however is different ‑ they will tell you one thing in English and then another in Arabic.
On the subject of Arab dictatorship, Toameh says:
Arab dictators survive by constantly blaming the misery of their people on Jews and the West and never accepting responsibility for anything. And by inciting against Israel and the West, you divert attention from problems at home. Why? Because you always need to make sure that your people are busy hating someone else. If they're not hating Israel and the West, they might wake up one day and come to you, and God forbid, demand reform and democracy.
The crux of the message is:
If you keep inciting your people, then they ask 'well, why are we then making peace with the Jews?' We should be killing them as Hamas is saying'.
So what does Toameh think about Mahmoud Abbas, the PA President?
Abbas is corrupt, discredited, weak and does not have much power. He is reliant on Israel, who's presence in the West Bank is ironically the only reason he has managed to stay in power.
And if Israel withdrew to the 1967 borders as demanded by Abbas and the PLO:
Abbas will collapse and Hamas will take over the West Bank in less than a day. If I were Israel, I would not give Abbas one inch of land in the West Bank ‑ not for ideological reasons, but to avoid a situation where Hamas and others would take over the area.
When we asked him how best to defeat the extremists, radicals and terrorists like Hamas and Hizbullah, Toameh answered:
The first and most important thing is you go to the Arab governments and tell them stop the incitement that's feeding these radicals and driving people into their hands. Sometimes there's no difference between what is written about Israel and the Jews in the papers in Egypt and Saudi Arabia with what is written by Hamas.
Noting again the billions of dollars in aid provided by the US and EU to various Arab dictatorships, Toameh says in other words, and even clearer, they should tell them: "Stop calling for my death with my money."
I asked Toameh about what steps were needed to move forward. According to him, the answer is "very simple" and involves the following steps:
1) The Palestinians must start investing money (provided to them mainly by the US and EU) for the welfare of their people instead of incitement. Then dismantle all militias, establish a free press and democratic institutions, end the infighting, insist on good governance and speak with one voice so at least we know who we're talking to. And then he suggests they should go speak with Israel and see what it has to offer them.
2) Deal with the enemies of peace ‑ if you weaken the enemies of peace, like Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, the moderates will rise and start speaking out. But as long as Iran is breathing down the neck and threatening, together with Hamas and Hizbullah, who are threatening to kill anyone who makes concessions, no moderate Arab will ever dare sign an agreement with Israel. Toameh says:
I don't even rule out military action against any of them because this is the only language these guys understand. Talking to them and appeasing them is even more dangerous.
3) "We can't move forward when you don't have a clear, strong, reliable and credible partner on the Palestinian side" says Toameh. According to him: "Abbas is not a partner. He and Fayaad might be nice guys with good intentions ‑ but they cannot deliver. So the PA are not partners because they cannot deliver and Hamas are not partners because they don't want to be partners."
Addressing the issue of whether there was a clear and credible partner on the Israeli side, Toameh said:
I don't care who is in government in Israel. There is a partner. And my partner is the Jewish people. Why? Because a majority of Jews have already accepted a 2 state solution. I see a majority of Jews who don't care anymore about Gaza. I see a majority of Jews who want to disengage from the Palestinians. I see a majority of Jews over the last 15 years marching toward moderation and pragmatism. I don't know today of one Jewish mother that wants to send her son back to the streets of Ramallah or Gaza. I don't know of one Jew who wants to control the lives of the Palestinians and run their education and health system. Sadly though, while the Jewish public has been marching towards pragmatism and realism and moderation, on the Arab side the message remains no, no and no.
In an incredibly candid address, for me perhaps the most defining statement Toameh made was when I asked him ‑ would you rather continue living as a member of a minority in Israel or move to another Arab country? Toameh's response was simple, honest and telling:
Israel is a free and open democratic country. I enjoy living here and I would rather live as a second class citizen in Israel, even though I'm not, than a first class citizen in any Arab country.
In a world where it's all too easy to turn a blind eye to courage, Khaled Abu Toameh is a welcome breath of fresh air. A man, deeply committed to peace, who is seen as a traitor by many and who bravely continues to put his own life on the line each day, Toameh perhaps says it best himself:
I'm not pro‑Israel, I'm not pro‑Palestinian and I'm not pro‑American. But as a journalist, I'm pro the facts and pro the truth.