Beirut--What will happen in Lebanon after peace? There is no definite answer to this question because everything depends on the progress made on the Syrian-Israeli track. However, many people agree on the issues that will be raised at the negotiation table between Beirut and Tel Aviv when the time comes. These issues will shed some light on what will happen in Lebanon in the future. The four most significant issues are:
Besides these issues and as a result of the coming peace, the Lebanese will face the question of economic competition between Lebanon and Israel. A person who has some expectations regarding the Lebanese-Israeli negotiations is Karim Baqraduni, deputy leader of the Phalangist Party. In an interview with AL-MAJALLAH, Baqraduni said that the issues that will be raised in the Lebanese-Israeli negotiations can be combined into three groups:
The third group includes mainly the issues of water and the Palestinian refugees. Asked whether Lebanon will pay a price for peace, Baqraduni says that the question of payment is raised as a general assumption. It depends on Lebanon's ability to rally international and regional support so it will not have to pay any price, pay a limited price, or pay something and receive something else in return. Baqraduni says that the absent and the weak are always the losers in any negotiations.
Baqraduni thinks that if the Lebanese Government does not act now, it will undoubtedly pay a price. He thinks that the present government is not preparing Lebanon to defend itself and is not trying to establish a web of relations and interests that could provide an umbrella for its citizens. Baqraduni adds: If things change, the Lebanese will determine Lebanon's role in a post-peace era. They will establish a strategy, which the government will adopt and implement. The government will also rally all the Lebanese at home and abroad around it. This would lead to national agreement and not division, as is the situation today. The payment of a price depends on us, Baqraduni says. If we can do what I said, Lebanon can receive a price, but if we do not agree on a vision and a strategy and do not achieve national reconciliation, Lebanon will pay the biggest price.
The question that concerns the Lebanese, while at the threshold of peace, is what will happen in Lebanon after peace, considering that the issues for negotiation between Lebanon and Israel--the water, the resistance, security, and the Palestinian refugees -- will be thorny. Observers think that Lebanon will pay the price of peace by accepting to settle the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Ambassador Fu'ad al-Turk, who served as Lebanese Foreign Ministry secretary general during the Israeli invasion and supervised the birth of resolution 425, thinks that the multilateral committees, formed to study the issues of the refugees, the water, security, and economy, will work out the details of a new Middle Eastern Order. Al-Turk thinks that the most important of these issues are the water and the Palestinian refugees.
The first issue is the resettlement of the Palestinian refugees. What will be the fate of the Palestinian refugees? Following the UN partition Resolution 181 on 29 November 1947, the establishment of the State of Israel, the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their homeland, and the occupation of their land and property, the United Nations established the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) on 21 May 1950. Besides what its name implies, UNRWA tried to merge the Palestinians in the countries in which they took refuge. Israel disregarded the many UN resolutions calling for the return of the Palestinians to their homeland.
The United Nations also issued several resolutions regarding the Palestinians displaced after the June 1967 war. The most important of these was UN Security Council Resolution 242 on 22 November 1967, which called for Israel's withdrawal to secure borders. The paragraph concerning the Palestinian refugees called for a just settlement of the refugee problem, without mentioning the nature of this settlement.
UN Security Council Resolution 338 of 22 October 1973 called for implementing all parts of Resolution 242. Resolutions 242 and 338 dealt with the Palestinian issue as a refugee and humanitarian issue and not as a political issue.
With the start of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations in Oslo and the conclusion of the Palestinian-Israeli declaration of principles agreement, which was signed on 13 September 1993, the Palestinian issue entered a new stage with regard to the refugees and displaced Palestinians. The agreement referred to a settlement based on Resolutions 242 and 338. However, the fifth article of the agreement noted that consideration of the refugee issue will be postponed for three years from the effective date of the declaration of principles agreement, because their return demands that the Palestinian Authority [PA] make plans and policies to encourage the refugees to return to their homeland. However, it seems that the PA has been unable to do that.
Therefore, Lebanese and non-Lebanese observers think that the solution will be to settle them in the host countries, although this would be far from a just solution. This opinion confirms what Israeli Prime Minister Shim'on Peres said in his book The New Middle East about the rehabilitation of the refugees in the Arab countries as part of a regional economic and social plan. Peres also says that Israel has not agreed to allow the refugees of 1948 to return, but it has undertaken to solve the problem of the Palestinians who left the West Bank in June 1967. This is what was agreed upon at Camp David and Oslo.
Obviously, the refugee settlement issue has not been accepted by all the Arab countries concerned. Regarding the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, the Lebanese Government has rejected their settlement in Lebanon. Ambassador Fu'ad al- Turk says that the Lebanese Constitution clearly opposes settlement and partition. Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Buwayz says: "The Palestinian presence in Lebanon will have a profound effect, because:
"First: Lebanon's geographical area is very small in relation to its population.
"Second: The Lebanese area that can be settled and exploited, after eliminating the mountains and deep valleys, is very small.
"Third: The Lebanese sectarian structure is very delicate. Any imbalance will have a political, social, economical, and security impact on it.
"Fourth: We think that the situation of the Palestinian refugees in the existing camps in Lebanon is basically different from their situation in some Arab countries where they live, work, and enjoy medical and educational security."
The Palestinians in Lebanon constitute 10 percent of the population. They can cause a social and political burden. Because most of the refugees are Sunni Muslims, their presence in Lebanon will affect the sectarian balance. Dr. George Dib, a political analyst and foreign affairs' adviser to the late Prime Minister Rashid Karami, says no one has a prepackaged solution to this problem. The Palestinian presence in Lebanon was established in the Camp David agreement and the Oslo Agreement. The first agreement said that a committee composed of representatives of Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, and Israel will be established, and those who wish to return must submit applications to this committee. Only those who left after 1967 will be entitled to submit applications. The committee will make its decisions unanimously. A provision in the Oslo Agreement confirms this text. This means that those who left Palestine before 1967 will be deprived of their right to return because they cannot submit applications. The applications of Palestinians who left after 1967 will be considered and their applications must be accepted unanimously. This means that even if all the Arab representatives approved them, Israel can veto them. Dr. Dib adds that the committee is currently working on the level of ambassadors. It is not taking applications now, because the parties are still trying to decide who is a refugee and who is not. Dr. Dib thinks that the confirmation in the Oslo Agreement means that there is an agreement to settle the Palestinians. The post-peace era will bring every inch of Lebanese territory under the control of the Lebanese Government. If a solution is reached regarding the Palestinians' presence, it will not provide for their return.
Ambassador al-Turk emphasizes the Lebanese constitution's provision against settlement and partition. Lebanese President Ilyas al-Hirawi also emphasized this point when he told the diplomatic corps that all the Lebanese people agree on this matter.
Rex Brynen * email@example.com * 1 May 1997