From the River to the Sea explained

Daoud Kuttab
4 min readNov 19, 2023

By Daoud Kuttab

Here is a fictional riddle whose answer can explain a political issue.

My neighbor came to me saying he had an emergency and asked for a $100 loan. I had not known this neighbor for a long time, but I felt his need, so I gave him a loan. Days, weeks, and months went by and my neighbor was not paying back the loan even though I asked for it on numerous occasions in a gentle way. One year later I met a mutual friend and told him about this loan, and he promised to help. He came back with a strange answer. I tried hard but our mutual friend was not cooperative, but I think can get you $30 dollars of that loan. I huffed and buffed and went home angry but then after a while, I said to myself $30 is better than nothing, so I called our mutual friend and said that although it was totally unfair and unjust if you get me the $30, I will call off the rest of the loan for the sake of good neighborly relationship.

Our mutual friend disappeared, after a while I saw him and asked him, and he was embarrassed to say he couldn’t get me back anything not even the one-third compromise I made.

For some time, this went on and one day another mutual friend called me and said he heard that there was a problem between my neighbor and me. I told him yes; we have a problem, I lent him money and he is refusing to pay it back.

Then came the hard question. How much does he owe you? It is true I was willing reluctantly to accept one-third of what I had loaned him, but he refused to pay that compromise offer. I answered that he owes me $100 which I had given to him based on his request for a loan due to an emergency and that is what he owes me.

This answer reflects what is happening today in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel a colonial invader took over the entire land of Palestine, the United Nations and countries of the world had suggested the two-state solution suggesting Palestinian Arabs live in an independent state on roughly 22% of historic Palestine. Yet even this globally accepted major compromise has yet to be enacted and instead, it is being gradually reduced due to Israeli Jewish settlement activities in the areas earmarked for the state of Palestine.

So long as the loan is not repaid and the compromise has been rejected, of course, Palestinians will insist on their rights to the entire land of Palestine to which 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly evicted and 400 villages were demolished. Not only has the right of return enshrined in a UN General Assembly resolution #193 adopted back in 1948 has been ignored. It stated: 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 and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Nineteen years later in June 1967 Israel occupied the rest of historic Palestine and has refused to give that back since then. Instead, it has built hundreds of illegal Jewish settlements and violated the Geneva IV convention that stipulated that an occupying power is not allowed to move its citizens to occupied areas.

Also, in 1967 the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 242 that stated in its preamble that emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in which every State in the area can live in security.” That resolution called for the withdrawal of Israel from occupied Palestinian territories (Gaza and the West Bank including Jerusalem) and called for a “just settlement of the refugee problem” in reference to Palestinian refugees.

So, Gaza which Israel continues to occupy according to the United Nations is largely inhabited by Palestinian refugees and their descendants from 1948. Israel has continuously rejected not only the just settlement of the refugee problem but also the withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories.

Sure, the world has suggested a two-state solution. But Israel has rejected this generous global compromise. And until that unfulfilled $30 compromise is realized, just like my neighbor’s $100 loan, many Palestinians will insist that Palestine should be free from the river to the sea.



Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian journalist, former Ferris Professor at Princeton U., established @AmmanNet. Contributor to