Salim Tamari, Institute of Jerusalem Studies
Final Status Strategic Studies
Institute for Palestine Studies
Beirut, Washington, and Jerusalem
Nevertheless the establishment of the Refugee Working Group in the Arab-Israeli multi-lateral peace negotiations in 1992, and the Continuing Committee for Displaced Persons in March of 1995-- although ostensibly addressing the same issues raised in Lausanne-- occur in a drastically changed circumstances. The Palestinian Israeli Declaration of Principles, the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty, as well as those components in the Camp David Agreement that deal with displaced persons, have cast the old issues in a new light.
What are these changed circumstances that set them apart from the refugee meetings of the 1940s and 50s? Uppermost is the recasting of the status of the Palestinians as a people whose cause has now become not exclusively an Arab and Islamic one as it was in the aftermath of the 1948 war, but an international cause with concrete territorial claim to a land and (for most) sovereignty. The Palestinian refugee issue is now recast not as an exclusively humanitarian issue as it was in the 40s, but as part of a conception of restoring the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people.
This is a mixed blessing, because while the earlier deliberations in international assemblies on the Palestinians focussed more or less exclusively on refugees, today addressing Palestinian claims both in bilateral and multilateral forums deals with refugees as part of a 'package' of Palestinian demands in which refugees are seen as part of a complex set of issues that include residencies, family reunification, problems of absorption, compensation, and so on. That is, the issue of refugees has been diluted into the various themes of Palestinian national reconstruction.
Secondly, the issue of solving the problem of refugees is fast becoming part of the new dichotomy within Palestinian politics between the contingencies of state building, and the demands of the diaspora for representation and repatriation. Returning refugees are dealt with not primarily as the culmination of decades of yearning and dream fulfilment, but as part of a series of compromises between the absorptive capacities of the Palestinian economy and the ability of the Palestinian negotiators to wrest concessions from Israeli bureaucratic and political objections to their repatriation.
Thirdly, the issue of refugees is encountering formidable forms of resistance from Israeli decision-makers. While the Israelis seem to be embarking on new realization that the Palestinian state, with 1967 boundaries, is an inevitable outcome of the negotiations, they are singling the return of refugees to a barrage of ideological and political objections, both at the public level in the press and media, and at a more direct levels in the negotiations over displaced persons. The return of Palestinian refugees is now being portrayed as a security issue within Israel, and as a prelude to a subtle scheme of undermining the Jewish character of the state, even when it entails the return of refugees to the areas under Palestinian control only.
That these objections are being raised now, with such heightened intensity, is precisely because the possibility and probability of return are part of the modalities of the negotiations, both in the DOP and in the deliberations of the Quadripartite committee for displaced persons.
One should also regard these objections, in part at least, as being addressed to a home audience in Israel, with the Labour party attempting to demonstrate a tough line stance to potential centrist and right wing voters on the question of refugees. For this reason actual negotiating parameters may demonstrate a more flexible approach, especially when held away from the limelight and bilaterally.
While the bilateral talks would address the political issues of territorial withdrawal, border demarcation, security arrangements and political rights of the Palestinians, the multilaterals would provide a forum for the participants to address a range of non-political issues extending across national boundaries, the resolution of which is essential for the promotion of long-term regional development and security. Whereas the bilaterals would deal with the problems inherited from the past, the multilaterals would focus on the future shape of the Middle East.The Palestinians, being the weaker party saw this distinction differently. They saw in the multilaterals an arena where they could compensate for their limited options on the ground by seeking alliances in the region and in Europe to offset their limited options in bilateral negotiations with Israel. This became apparent in the deliberations of the Moscow steering committee meeting, in January 1992, where the modus operandi of the multilaterals were established. There the Syrians and Lebanese boycotted the meetings because they hinged any progress in the regional talks on progress in Israeli bilateral concessions on the Golan and South Lebanon.
The Palestinians--confined as they were with the negotiating tasks of the transitional period--insisted that an element of final status issues be added. They saw in the introduction of the refugee working group a 'political' dimension--not available in the other four groups (environment, water, economic development, and disarmament). It was 'political' in the double sense:
* It sent a signal to Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon that they were not forgotten in the protracted negotiations of the transitional period. This would give a much needed legitimacy to the impending signing of an Israeli- Palestinian Accord which was bound to be seen as too conciliatory by Palestinians in the diaspora if a refugee component is missing from it.
* It also introduced an element of final status negotiations to supplement the negotiations over displaced persons which was bound to dominate talks over refugees.
This at any rate was the intention, although as we shall they the results were quite different. It was precisely this vision on the part of the Palestinians that led the Israelis, obsessed as they were with any hint about a Palestinian Right of Return to resist its inclusion in Moscow, and later to diffuse its program once they were prevailed upon to accept it.
Ultimately this aspect of the refugees became clearer with the signing of the Declaration of Principles in September of 1993. The status of Palestinian refugees, it will be recalled was one of the three contentious issues that were left to the final status negotiations to begin in mid-1996. But unlike the other two themes Jerusalem and settlement, the procedural aspects of dealing with refugees was reversed. The establishment of the Refugee Working Group in the multi-lateral negotiations with a mandate to deal with the status of refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria--in addition to those in the West Bank and Gaza--preceded the establishment of the committee on displaced persons (the Continuing Committee) from the 1967 war.
Of all the committees in the multilaterals it was the Working Group on Refugees (RWG) where the Palestinians had the upper hand in defining the mandate of the group in their favour. But the ambiguity of that mandate--as we shall see--and the consensual nature of decision-making ensured that this tilt was never translated into a practical advantage.
Several issues were raised from the beginning about the composition of the group and the scope of its deliberations.
The issue of representation was not resolved until the Cairo meeting in May 1994 which came after the signing of the DOP and the PLO became the direct negotiator with the Israelis.
"When the Arab states are ready to conclude a peace treaty with Israel [the question of refugees will come up for constructive solution as part of the general settlement, and with due regard to our counter-claims in respect of the destruction of Jewish life and property..."From the point of view of the Palestinian, and other Arab delegations this was seen not as a humanitarian gesture but an attempt to diffuse the work of the committee, whose mandate was already established in the Moscow steering Committee.
The Palestinian delegation countered this notion of 'exchange' by stressing three points about Jewish immigrants to Israel: (1) That Jews from Arab countries, in the main, came voluntarily to Israel, while the Palestinians were forcibly expelled from the homes; (2) that Palestinians took refuge in a different host countries than those from which the Jews emigrated to Israel (primarily Iraq, Morocco, and Yemen); and (3) Arab countries, at least in theory-- and in the case of Morocco, in fact--have proclaimed the right of their Jewish citizens to return to their countries. In consequence the Palestinians raised the demand that issues of compensation, repatriation and return on the part of Jewish immigrants in Israel should be raised bilaterally with the respective Arab countries, just as the Palestinians will raise these issues bilaterally with Israel during final status negotiations.
Only one of the seven themes, family reunification, dealt concretely with a political dimension of refugee dispersion. The other six themes addressed issues of community development and living conditions of refugees. Each interested country 'shepherded' one of these themes: Databases (Norway), Human Resources Development/Job Creation (USA), Public Health (Italy), Child Welfare (Sweden), Economic and Social Infrastructure (European Union), and Family Reunification (France).
It soon became apparent that family reunification was too explosive to be dealt with as a neutral issue of ameliorating the status of refugees since it generated a heated discussion around the issues of dispersal, military laws of residency, and demographic control of the size of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza.
In the analysis below considerable attention will be paid to three documents which have affected the course of the multilateral negotiations, the first concerns the debate on family reunification, which proved to be a much more contentious issue than anticipated; the second, on the Canadian perception of how to break the deadlock in the negotiations (the 'vision paper'); and finally, on the European Union attempts to link aid to refugees with creating options for integrating refugees in the Arab host countries.
Behind these limited agreements remained the spectre of Family Reunification seen (falsely I believe) by many Israeli as the 'right of return from the back door', as the right-wing press alluded to periodically.
The main problems has to do with the actual implementation on the ground of principles agreed upon, and on continuing the momentum of progress which began in the Oslo and Tunis RWG. The Palestinians among others took the position that the quota announced in Oslo (two thousand annual cases) was far below the expectation raised by the Oslo Accords and the Palestinian-Israeli Agreement of May 4th, 1994 in Cairo.
The main procedural items that were addressed in this additional agreement were:
On the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip it transpired that the Israeli Civil Administration in the area had destroyed all the FR application files that had been submitted in recent years. When this act was protested by the committee it was told that since authority now lies with the Palestinian side in these matters there was no need to go over the old applications.
Since then the PNA has invited the public to submit applications for FR in the local press. Cases submitted by Palestinian residents to the PNA be are transferred to the Israeli side after processing by the Palestinian side as per the Cairo Agreement (Annex 2, para. L:15-16). It is not yet clear how these clauses will be implemented on the ground, but they will be a major test of the Palestinian- Israeli Agreement.
In the West Bank (including Jericho) the Palestinian Negotiating Team surveyed 820 cases of FR applications through a public survey conducted in October 1994. Of those it was found that:
2. Transparency: Much of the guidelines on transparency proposed in the Bajolet report on FR which have been adopted by the RWG has not been implemented. Partly due to the absence of clear instructions to District Offices of the Israeli Civil Administration (which still show a large variety of procedural rules), and possibly because such guidelines were not adopted in the first place.
3. Quotas: Although there is a declared quota of 2,000 FR cases annually, the Israeli Civil Administration has not been announcing the aggregate number of acceptance and rejections on a periodic basis. Therefore, there is no direct way of realizing whether the quota has been met or not.
4. Time Limitations: Applicants, in most cases, are not receiving responses to their applications within the three months period agreed upon in previous meetings of the RWG. In large number of cases the response period is over a year.
4. Appeals: The procedures for appealing rejected cases are not transparent, and there is no accountability. Members of appeal boards are not known and not accessible by the applicants or their lawyers. Rejected cases in their majority usually have to resubmit a new application instead of appealing the rejected one.
5. 'Illegal' Residents:Since the end of 1994 the Israeli Civil Administration resorted to threats of deportation against hundreds of cases of people, mostly spouses and their children, who overstayed their visiting permits. After legal intervention these threats were suspended temporarily. It is essential that the regularization agreement which covers spouses who entered the country during 1992 and 1993 be extended to the period after August 31, 1993. In general spouses and children of legal residents of the Occupied Territories should not be subject to the quota.
6. Status of FR Applications in Areas Under Palestinian Control: Procedures for processing applications within the Gaza/Jericho Area should be clarified in light of the articles covering the status of family members applying for reunion with their kin in the Cairo Agreement of May 1994 (Annex 2 Article L:15-16).
1. The issue of family reunification is broader than the issue of refugees and subsumes it. It rests, among other things, on the right of married people to reunite with their non-resident spouses.
2. The most disruptive feature of Israeli policies on dispersed families is that they do not recognize, in principle, the right of spouses and their children to reunite with their parents. Family members who leave temporarily to work or study, are regularly denied residency for overstaying their exit permits.
3. The Israelis authorities have used family reunification as a bargaining instrument in the negotiations over refugees, in the transitional period. I should add here that this is the only issue on which there was progress in the bilateral negotiations with the Israelis in the RWG.
4. Family reunification is a principled right recognized by a number of international conventions (article 74 of the Geneva Convention, and the Helsinki Final Act of 1974). It is also incorporated in all emigration laws of most states. It should not be subject to political bargaining.
5. The right of immediate family members to family reunification should not be subject to quota restrictions.
Abram's memorandum makes a distinction between the two categories as far as policies are concerned. While both categories are entitled to apply for family reunification, he stated 'immediate family members are entitled by their objective status alone to family reunification. The decision in their case need not be subject to discretionary procedures; it should be quick and clear-cut, giving effect to a prima facie right to live together and subject only to such requirements for documentary proof of genuine family relationships as are common to the immigration regulations of democratic countries.'
One should take into account also the specific Arab and Islamic environment in which the dispersal of Palestinian refugees took place which is typified by the prevalence of shared residence by joint families and a unified extended household economy.
The report concludes with the irony that Palestinian expatriates returning to their homeland have less rights than foreign emigrants making applications for citizenship in a new country of choice:
"While the Palestinian residents of the occupied territories have not acquired an independent citizenship, neither are they alien residents with the option to return to a previous homeland or domicile in order to be reunited there with dependent parents or other relatives. The anomalous position of Palestinians under prolonged occupation, disrupting at times the natural development of the family, should not be ignored. Their right to be unified with family members should approximate state practice with respect to citizens."
(a) All those immediate or dependent family members currently present in the territories should be allowed to apply for family reunification while present, and be entitled to positive and rapid processing of their applications without being required to depart.
The French Emissary reported that Israel has undertaken to assure "regularization for Palestinians already present in the territories". This commitment has not yet been put into effect.
In fact, current policy flatly contradicts this commitment. Immediate family members who entered the territories after August 1992 are denied the opportunity to apply for family reunification while remaining in the territories, and Israeli officials continue to threaten them with expulsion.
(b) Immediate family members should be allowed to visit the territories and to apply for family reunification during the duration of their visits. They should not be required to leave pending an answer to their application. Except during the summer months, Israel currently denies most applications of immediate family members for visitor permits. Under present policy, family reunification cannot be requested during the visit. The French Emissary has reported Israel's commitment to process family reunification applications within three months. Three months is the normal duration of the visitor's permit. It should be possible, therefore, for the visiting family member to apply for reunification upon arrival and to receive an answer to the application prior to the expiration of the visitor's permit. In any case, there is no rational reason to refuse an extension of the visitor's permit until a final answer is given concerning family reunification.
(c) Steps should be taken to enable a legal resident of the territories temporarily residing abroad with his family to apply, while abroad, for family reunification. Furthermore, it should be made clear that the resident's temporary abode abroad will not be interpreted as evidence of intent to transfer his domicile away from the territories and will not prejudice the family reunification request in any way. Although the French Emissary's report indicates, apparently, that Israeli authorities already announced their intention to adopt this measure, the report's language is somewhat opaque ("files may be transmitted by a person not residing in the Territories provided his guarantor has resident status"). No known steps have been taken to inform Palestinians in the territories or abroad how they can apply from abroad.
(d) Full and specific reasons must be provided by the authorities for rejecting a family reunification application. Giving notice of the grounds of rejection to the applicant (as distinguished from explanations to the Palestinian Authorities) fulfils a well-established principle of natural justice. Only in this way can the applicant hope to challenge the deprivation of his or her right to family unity or to rebut the factual assumptions on which the denial is based.
(e) A final procedural point concerns bureaucratic and political sensitivities. It is not essential that every person entitled to family reunification be granted immediate permanent resident status. The underlying humanitarian problem - that family members need to live together - can be solved by granting any form of renewable temporary resident status during the interim period. Such an approach may allay the reluctance to accept change and the fear of prejudicing final settlements.
These implications were underscored by the February 1994 intersessional meeting of the RWG on family rights and family reunification, were--despite Israeli opposition-- a consensus among the expert group of jurists and social scientist emerged on the relationship between the conception of the changing roles of the Palestinian family and its rights under Israeli rule. The group of social scientists agreed on the following issues:
1. That the decline of the extended family as a residential unit does not entail the Palestinian family has lost its extended ('joint') features.
2. That the rate of dependency of children on their parents in Palestinian and Arab families extends beyond the legal definition of maturation, and should be taken into account when applications for family reunification is made.
3. That the policy of wilfully separation of families by creating bureaucratic obstacles to unification of spouses and their children seriously undermines the social fabric of Palestinian society.
Any agreement in principle over the wider role of kinship networks in the functioning and survival of Palestinian society is bound to involve larger number of individuals to join their dismembered family members. A nucleated definition of the family, on the other hand, would focus the area of reunification over the spouse and younger children of dispersed families. It was this 'European' notion of the family that Israel has been advocating--though purely for purposes of setting a low ceiling on the admission of displaced persons and refugees. Once the realities of Arab society began to impose themselves over the terms of the debate, the Israeli reverted by restricting the implementation of the agreed upon quota, while admitting in effect that the Palestinian family is indeed not exactly equivalent to European nuclear prototypes.
The Quadripartite Continual Committee (QP) met at the ministerial level in Amman on March 1995 after the conclusion of the Israeli- Jordanian Peace Treaty and decided to meet periodically at the level of experts (Technical Committee) and quarterly at the ministerial level to deliberate on recommendations raised by the TC. Its frame of reference was the DOP (article 12), the Jordanian- Israeli Peace Agreement, and those clauses of the Camp David Accords that dealt with displaced persons. The inclusion of the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Agreement was meant to signal Jordan's agreement to join the QP committee--which so far was a bilateral agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. The Camp David Accords, on the other hand contained a stronger reference to the repatriation of DPs, with a time-frame that spans the transitional period of self-rule, i.e. five years. No such time-frame was included in the DOP.
The Committee met six times since the beginning of 1995 (Amman, Beer-Sheva, Cairo, Gaza, Amman, and Haifa). In the spring of 1995, at the Beer-Sheva meeting, it adopted an agenda revolving around four items:
The Israeli position on displaced persons initially was to regard as displaced, in a memo issued on June 5th, 1995, those Palestinians 'who were residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and were displaced as a result of the fighting'. They noted that as a 'humanitarian gesture' the Israeli government allowed Palestinians to return through the offices of the Red cross, after July 2nd 1967. Since then 88,000 persons were admitted within the Family Reunification scheme in the period between 1967 and 1994.
But this minimalist definition of displaced, with the stress on the words "as a result of the fighting" in contrast to "as a result of the war" was totally unacceptable to the Palestinians and the two Arab parties. They regarded the terminology also as contrary to the terms of the DOP which refers (in article 12) to 'persons displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967'.
Both the Jordanian and Palestinian delegations suggested the following alternative definition:
"Displaced Persons are those individuals and their families and descendants who left their homes in the West Bank and Gaza, or were unable to return to their homes, as a consequence of the 1967 war."In attempting to resolve the question of definition of 'who is a displaced person?' the committee divided the categories of displaced persons into three groupings:
Within the Arab World the Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty signalled an era of normalization in which collective Arab pressure on Israel on the issue of refugees was receded. By its very nature the quadripartite committee excluded the Europeans, the Arab states, and the North Americans, in effect transforming the refugee issue into a regional context.
The Israelis press began to treat the talks on displaced persons as if they were the refugee talks itself, with warning that acceptance of repatriation for 1967 refugees signalled a prelude for the return of 1948 refugee. Shlomo Gazit, now appointed as a special advisor to the Israeli side in the multilateral talks, expressed the view that the Israeli delegation to the bilateral talks should insist that an Israeli condition for redeployment in favour of the PNA should include "the liquidation of the refugee question inside the Gaza Strip, the abolition of the formal status of refugees, the removal of UNRWA from the district and suspension of aid to UNRWA, and the dismantling of refugee camps and the removal of their population to permanent housing schemes".
At the heart of the debate over modalities of admission of DPs is the degree of control to be exercised by the PNA over the issues of border crossings and the granting of residency permits to returning Palestinians from their exile. Israeli negotiators claim, though not officially, that these controls will be relaxed from the Israeli side once they are assured that security matters are under control in PNA territories, and once economic growth in the Palestinian economy allow for higher absorption of expatriates. The Palestinians have insisted that this latter point should be an internal matter for the PNA, and that Israelis have no right to control the number of Palestinians who are admitted under the guise of security considerations. A possible turning point occurred with the signing of the Interim Agreement on Self-Government (Oslo 2) on September 28th, 1995. The changes brought about by this agreement are discussed in section VI. below.
But the shift in focus over refugees occurred within a more general
questioning of the role of the multilaterals as the 'peace process'
had moved from a regional issue to bilateral talks between Jordan
and Israel, and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It was at this
point that the Canadians attempted to break the deadlock by
proposing new guidelines for the negotiations on refugees.
The new agreement establishes guidelines for establishing residency for a number of categories of returning Palestinians who have so far been denied entry. It also has new provisions for work, study and the registration of children. The details of these new guidelines are discussed in Appendix II.
Among the highlights of the new provisions are:
To the extent that the interim agreement addresses the situation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, it seems that Jerusalem Arabs will continue to exit in a grey area. However since some of these clauses (e.g. on 'latecomers' and electoral registers) involve Jerusalem residents, it is expected that Jerusalemites will also benefit from the procedural changes.
The clauses in the agreement contain several improvements for the current status of residency that have been so far denied to Palestinian applicants, particularly for spouses and children. It has given important avenues for the regularization of residency for those who have been living 'illegally' with their families--mostly as over extended visitors--through the voter registration procedures.
The agreement also empowers the Palestinian Authority to grant work, study and visitors' permits, and to extend these permits, up to the status of residency.
But the bulk of these improvements, particularly those pertaining to family reunification, are still dependent on prior clearance with the Israeli authority. And as long as Israel maintain a restricted quota on these permits (currently 2,000 cases a year), much of these improvements will be severely qualified.
This was by far the most ambitious, and probably the most controversial, position put forth by the team headed by Marc Peron in attempting to draw some guideline for the future work of the RWG in the multi-lateral negotiations. It attempted, following the steering committee meeting in Tabarka, Tunis (July 1994), to project strategic vision for the refugees for the next 10 years. The paper had a further significance in that it was based on consultations with regional parties and anticipates that the co-sponsors (the US and Russia) would assume the coordination and management of this vision, with particular attention to funding projects that are involved in the implementation of its recommendations. It should be noted here that much of the problems associated with the discussion of the vision paper and its possible implementation has to do with the consensual framework required for reaching decisions in the multilaterals.
The controversy began with the definition of the 'vision' itself: "a new Middle East...[in which] our vision is a future without refugees...in which no one displaced by the Arab-Israeli conflict (or their descendants) considers themselves to be a refugee". It envisioned the replacement of "statelessness by identity, poverty by development, camps by neighbourhoods, precariousness by normality" (VP 2.2, emphasis added). The assumption of 'normality' and achievement of civic rights to Palestinian refugees, without presenting it a package with the achievement of their political aspirations, has always generated fears of putting the cart before the horse from the perspective of Arab and Palestinian protagonists.
In order to alley these fears the Vision Paper insisted that refugees must be provided 'with options from which they can make a free and informed choice'. These options included an open discussion of issues like 'the right of return' and compensation. It included 'the possibility of some Palestinians being resettled (although not necessarily naturalized)--with full economic and civil rights--in the countries of current asylum' (VP 3.1.5).
On the issue of defining the scope of the problem of refugees (data and qualitative studies) the Norwegian shepherd--together with UNRWA--have produced a number of useful survey data (including the FAFO study and the ongoing demographic survey) but none of these actually answered any of the critical questions expected from the RWG on the number of refugees, their categories, and their preferences as to future options. In fact most of these studies have avoided entering into this rocky terrain precisely because of the sensitivity of the issues involved. The current difficulties of FAFO in getting basic data of this sort in the forthcoming Jordanian survey (not to speak of similar attempts for Syria and Lebanon) indicate the limitations embedded in these studies. On the other hand independent surveys that have been made outside the scope of the multilaterals (such as the PASSIA survey on West Bank refugee opinions on their future by N. Guerre, and Suhail Natour survey of the legal status of Palestinians in Lebanon) have been able to achieve considerable clarity on these issues precisely because they are not hampered by being part of the 'peace process'.
On the issue of 'mobilization of resources' it should be pointed out, without neglecting the importance of funding development projects among refugees, that much of these projects mentioned in the report are general aid projects to Palestinian development that are only partly aimed at refugees. Many of them in fact were announced simultaneously in the five working sessions of the multilaterals and should not be seen as exclusively, or even primarily 'refugee projects'. In fact it would help refugee standard of living--both in Palestine and the host Arab countries-- if these development schemes are seen (and implemented) as integrated economic projects for the population at large.
Thirdly, it is well known that the French vision for family reunification is far from being implemented, and that the concrete achievements in this regard is quite unsatisfactory--namely the raising of the ceiling of family reunifications from 1,000 cases to 2,000 after three years of intensive negotiations. Much of the procedural improvements for these schemes approved by the RWG, including Israel, are far from being implemented. It would have been more helpful if the Vision Paper made some reference to these limitations and failures in order to surmount them in future deliberations.
On the issue of mobilizing resources it suggested the following
The report further proposed five concrete proposals which, if
implemented, would be likely to make a qualitative difference in
the work of the RWG:
1. Refugee Statistics: Conducting a comprehensive census of refugee communities to provide "basic data on the numbers, living conditions, citizenship and employment status, links to family/property in Israel and the territories", etc. (VP 4.10.1)
2. Absorptive Capacity: Assessment of the absorptive capacity of the West Bank and Gaza for returning Palestinians. (VP 4.10.3)
3. UNRWA's Future: Assessment of the implications and consequences of the transfer of UNRWA services to the Palestinian Authority. (VP4.10.4). This is a problematic clause since the PA seems to be reconsidering it's earlier position on the transfer of UNRWA functions.
4. FR Claims: Provision of a data base on the pool of potential claimants to the family reunification schemes. [The report suggests that "...in the context of final status arrangements...comprehensive peace may be associated with significant increases in the level of family reunification" (VP 4.10.6). Here the authors seem to be hinting that since Israel has been opposed to any substantial repatriation of refugees to their homes--both in Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza--then an expansion of FR schemes may provide an outlet to this dilemma.
5. Compensation Files: The report called for preparatory work on claims, valuation of claims, adjudication, "modes of balancing claims", and "the advantages and disadvantages of individual versus collective claims" (VP 4.10.7). It also calls for conducting comparative studies of compensation schemes that might be relevant to the Palestinian case.
This suggestion might have clarified an important issue:compensation is often (falsely) seen as a final status issue. There is no reason why compensation claims should not be considered for victims of the 1967 war, in the context of the work of the quadri- partite committee as part of the agenda of its technical team. Similarly claims of compensation are often discussed in the current literature (particularly in recent reports in the Arab press) as an alternative to the right of return. There is nothing in various UN resolutions (including G.A. res. 194) that treats compensation claims as an alternative to repatriation of refugees.
This limitation has to do with the procedural consensualism that has so far paralysed the work of multilateral proceedings. Only matters that receive the agreement of all parties to the conflict receive the stamp of approval of the RWG. This is why the final statement issued by each of the multilateral meetings has so far reflected the lowest common denominator of collective consensus. It is ironic that this limitation is seen by the report as a major source of strength in the multilaterals (VP 4.18) since it seeks to supplement bilateral negotiations.
This is equally true of substantive issues dealing with refugees, such as upgrading the status of family reunification procedures, whose limited achievements reflect the balance of forces on the ground.
How did the Vision Paper deal with this constraint? Two approaches and a monitoring mechanism are suggested: The first approach was referred to as 'enhanced dialogue' in which "flexibility and informality be utilized in dealing with sensitive problems" in order to minimize public constraints (VP 4.12).
Another approach was to open second track (ie secret or informal)negotiations in which NGOs, media people, and academic communities are involved in order to supplement or complement formal negotiations. This mechanism is suggested as a means also of bringing Syria and Lebanon into participating into RWG work (VP4.14)
This 'solution' is problematic. It attempts to deal with the deadlock in one of the multi-laterals (in this case the RWG) in the same manner that the stalled official Palestinian negotiations were dealt with in 1993 (Oslo). The part cannot be treated in the same manner as the whole. Furthermore the context here is different. The issue of refugees has become (or rather has been upgraded) into a bete noire of the outstanding issues in the transitional period.Within Israeli political discourse any concession on the issue of refugees has become tantamount to breaching the future security of Israeli citizens. Quite often Israeli collective fears on the question of refugees has been utilized by the Israeli negotiating team to preempt rational discussion of this matter. Second track and informal dialogue may be helpful to deal with final status issues, where the ideological obfuscation and intransigence can be defused, but not in dealing with transitional issues of residencies, family reunification and return of displaced persons,where agreements has been made in principle, but not on the modalities of their implementation.
If we accept this procedural distinction (between final status issues and transitional ones) then the main strength of the Vision paper can be located in the whole range of monitoring mechanisms are suggested (VP 4.15) for ensuring the implementation of decisions taken. Four areas were suggested as a monitoring role for the RWG:
1. monitoring family reunification procedures
2. support for implementing decisions of the quadripartite committee pertaining to displaced persons
3. helping the Palestinian NA to deal with the consequences of UNRWA devolution in the West Bank and Gaza
4. monitoring the implementation of decisions pertaining to refugees in final status negotiations
Muhammad Hallaj, former head of the Palestinian team to the RWG,described this equation as a 'corruption of the process' of resolving he refugee issue. The bulk of refugee negotiations, he stated "has centred on ways to assist the refugees rather than on confronting the issue of displacement and statelessness which makes the refugee question the volatile issue that it has been for more than forty years". The insistence on the application of UN resolutions has become marginalized by making it a Palestinian and Arab concern rather than an international component of the RWG.The negotiations, Hallaj concludes, have
corrupted the process by denying the moral and legal standards accepted by the international community for more than four decades. By shelving the United Nations resolutions, it put the future of Palestinian refugees at the mercy of the balance of power and confined refugee rights to what Israel is willing to concede.
This imbalance can be observed clearly in the position adopted by the European Union, the shepherd in charge of economic development programs for refugees, to the RWG, and arguably the bloc with the highest degree of autonomy from American, and Israeli, positions on the future of refugees. The Bristol report (July 1994), as it became known, is the most comprehensive document issued by any group in the RWG on the status of refugees. It also underlies both the assumptions and--to some extent--intentions of the main shepherds to the refugee negotiations. For this reason we will dwell on this document in some detail.
The most controversial of these assumptions is the first. The second assumption, in part, is meant to qualify changes in the character of aid provided in the autonomous region of the West Bank and Gaza. The focus here is the inappropriateness of aid to refugees exclusively where "assistance should transcend legal status and concentrate on socio-economic development and rehabilitation for the whole area".
This assumption became increasingly pressing as aid packages to refugee areas (particularly in Gaza) could not have been implemented without substantial coordination with municipal and regional bodies whose domain was the 'resident' (ie non-refugee)population. For example, in matters of infrastructure, such as sewage, electric grids, and road networks, it is virtually impossible to serve refugee camps, or refugee areas only without linking these systems with existing or projected grids for neighboring, 'non-refugee' areas. In other forms of development,such as the extension of health services and schools, aid can be exclusively geared to refugee populations but would be more feasible and efficient if integrated with similar services to residents. This issue of integrating aid to refugees and non-refugees has become increasingly obvious as the Palestinian national authority began to plan development aid in highly congested areas in the occupied territories.
However to claim that such aid shall not prejudice the future status of refugees (as it is often stated in the multilateral negotiations) is not very accurate since refugees with improved social and economic status are likely to move out of camps, to migrate to other countries, and in general to relegate their refugee condition to an abstract political commitment. Those who remain in camps inside Palestine tend to be the urban poor, and consequently the status of camps has increasingly acquired the form and 'normal' urban slums in recent years.
While the Palestinian strategy in this regard has been to support aid packages to refugees that will improve the conditions of daily life (with the exception of housing aid which was seen as promoting resettlement), such support was always conditional on progress in the political sphere in the direction of solving the legitimate aspirations of refugees. Since these forms of aid are discussed in the context of the political forums of the multilateral talks, it is essential that these political conditions be now raised concurrently with planning for aid assistance. The political conditions relevant here are enhancing procedures for family reunification, expediting the application of refugees who lost their residencies in the occupied territories, and the implementation of those terms in the Oslo agreement that call for the relocation of displaced persons to the autonomous regions.Unless progress occurs in these spheres, the second assumption in this report, referring to the non-prejudicing of the rights of refugees will become a formula for covering up schemes of relocation and resettlement of refugees, without satisfying their needs or aspirations.
1. It excludes those refugees who did not register with UNRWA as refugees, those who lost their registration as a result of their changed status (particularly in Lebanon), and thousands of rural refugees in Gaza and the West Bank who lost their land and sources of livelihood but who did not lose their residence. The latter include also people who lost access to coastal markets and work sites in pre-48 Palestine.
2. The UNRWA definition is wasteful, according to the report,because it includes many refugees who otherwise do not need the assistance and maintain the registration cards to maintain their status as refugees.
This discussion is somewhat pedantic, and takes UNRWA refugee criteria out of context, since the UNRWA definition was meant as a working definition for purposes of establishing assistance procedures, and not for determining the status of refugees. The discussion is fruitful nevertheless because it forces us to look for more comprehensive definition of refugee status that has to deal with (negatively or positively) with the following categories:
(a) descendants of refugees (how many generations and to what degree of relationship)?
(b) Border villages: loss of land only or loss of livelihood?
c. Loss of livelihood: to what extent does loss of livelihood in the war of 1948 impute a refugee status to the victim?
d. Absent\Present: there are tens of thousands of refugees inside Israel who lost their properties and residence while remaining in Israel and becoming citizens. What is their status?
e. Documentation: What is the necessary minimal documents that are needed to establish the refugee's claims for properties, losses,and compensations?
a. Because of centralization of planning, administration and control by UNRWA assistance programs are standardized and do not take into account the regional variations, which are substantial even within the same country of residence.
b. NGO aid in the 1980s is well meaning but economically unsustainable (probably because of lack of expertise, and the excessive factional considerations governing Palestinian NGO assistance. Much of this aid is described as "shots of morphine [in which] the self-reliance programs proved to be an unmitigated disaster and a haunting example of the dangers of over-enthusiastic embracing of projects without due attention to their validity,usefulness and sustainability" (page 26)
c. Because of the multiplicity of aid groups in recent years (even before the intifada) there is currently lack of coordination,whether sectoral or regional to situate these forms of aid in an overall plan, caused so far by the dictate of international aid agencies on how the money should be spent (echoes of the World Bank and the IMF).
d. Because of the changing status of refugees, particularly because of the move towards the establishment of autonomy, the report puts forth the view that status-centred assistance (ie aid governed by the old UNRWA definition of refugee) should be replaced by need-centred aid, which is governed by the notion of vulnerability.
In general, while much of this critique is accurate, it tends to be over-generalizing and holier than thou when discussing the role of UNRWA and local NGOs. One can accuse the authors of doing to the institutions of assistance what they criticize about aid programs;i.e. it is too generalized and does not take into account the specificities of each region and sector of operation. Specifically while the report is correct in pointing to the need for changing the older basis for providing aid, chooses to ignore the political implication for adopting a non-legalistic notion of what a refugee is.
After all this is exactly what is called for when many international NGOs, and certain European government, call for treating the refugee issue from the perspective of local need towards integrating the refugees in the host countries, without addressing their political status. With all its shortcomings, the UNRWA definition continues to capture a combination of need (though outmoded) with the basic requirements for a political resolution of refugee status, and one which does take the refugee aspirations into account.
In the occupied territories (the report optimistically calls them 'former OTs') as well as in the host regions the authors call for the establishment of a consensus on priorities for the established of assistance on the part of host governments, UNRWA, and national and international NGOs. Given the present emerging conflict between NGOs and the Palestinian NGOs such a consensus might be desirable but far from being achieved on a voluntary basis.
A 'Basic Human Rights Strategy' is suggested to deal with structural and socio-economic vulnerability of the poorest Palestinian refugees...targeting both refugees and host communities. (page 37). It enunciates the component of this approach through physical infrastructure, health and vocational training.
"...the improvement of the material conditions of the camp has been equated with resettlement (tawteen). However there is increasing evidence that the latest generation of Palestinians does not regard better housing as a surrender of its identity. in al-Nairab camp in Syria, a housing project proposal was denounced by Palestinian political groups as an indication of permanent settlement.Nevertheless 100% of the refugees registered to obtain a new shelter." (p. 39)
The evidence for this observation is not attributed, but it conforms to similar observations made by Jarrar in the Nablus study referred to above which indicates that camp refugees are much more flexible in their attitudes to issues concerning improvement of shelter and living amenities, than the political rhetoric against resettlement may imply. On the other hand the reader should be weary about conclusions from the above case about the willingness of refugees to reduce their political demands, based on the assumption that they have pragmatic attitudes towards housing.
In this respect the study signifies that the most common indicator of improved material status is the tendency of refugees to move out of the camp altogether--a solution that is available to refugees in Palestine, and Jordan but very difficult in Lebanon and Syria.
The report points out that the most difficult situation faced by Palestinian refugees exists in Lebanon, where housing, work, and amenities are acutely lacking. A recent survey (carried by Qutaishat and Mahmoud, 1993) is quoted indicating that 75% of refugee families in Lebanon have been displaced more than once, and 19% displaced more than three times during the civil war. An UNRWA survey (unquoted) indicates that 50.4% of displaced families are living in the Sidon area, and 28.1% living in the Beirut area.
One major omission in the report is the absence of any substantial discussion on the future of refugees in the context of the current political settlement. The section on 'Repatriation, Resettlement,and Restitution' (page 133) is focussed on the history of the Palestine Reconciliation Commission and on Israeli offers to absorb 100,000 refugees in the early 1950. Here one would have expected some assessment of some of the following contemporary issues:
Of the three final status issues slated for bilateral negotiations in May 1996, the question of refugees has received the least attention in terms of strategic vision. In many ways it is also one of the hardest to resolve given Israeli intransigence on this issue, and Palestinian inability to impose any conditions on their protagonists. By contrast the issues of Jerusalem and Settlements have had a considerable number of futurist scenarios and even the modicum of agreement. No such debate has surrounded the issue of refugees, and yet the legitimacy of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement in the eyes of the Palestinian diaspora rests to a large extent on the ability of the PNA to ensure the return of expatriate Palestinians to their country.
As final status negotiations come closer the following issues are likely to dominate the debate over the future of refugees:
Obviously not all of these refugees will relocate to Palestine even if the opportunity was available. A number of factors will determine this likelihood, including quotas of return agreed upon,the absorptive capacity of the Palestinian economy, and the attractiveness of the new regime in comparison to the relative security or insecurity of Palestinians in the host countries.
In the transitional period (lasting five years from the signing of the DOP), it would be to the advantage of the Palestinians to separate the issue of Displaced Persons from that of '48 refugees.I would argue for this separation on the following grounds:
**To preempt claims that the settlement of displaced persons in the West Bank and Gaza is part of a final package that precludes their further claims on rights inside Israel. This is particularly relevant to the status of Dps who are also '48 refugees.
**Since the issue of Dps is discussed in the context of the Quadripartite Committee, which is a purely Arab-Israeli committee,Palestinians would benefit greatly from the participation of the international community (in particular UN organizations) if the multilaterals continue to debate the status of '48 refugees.
**The committee on displaced persons have been discussing the status of people who lost their residency but who are technically neither refugees nor 'displaced persons'. Those include deportees and citizens who lost their permanent IDs. It would overload the work of the final status negotiations if these categories of people are transferred to their committee.
Nevertheless there is a certain degree of linkage that is bound to merge the work of the two sets of negotiations. Those include, the manner in which the earlier returnees are absorbed; procedures for applications for return; and claims for compensation made by '67 and '48 refugees.
As final status negotiations loom on the horizon (in May 1996)immense diplomatic pressure will start building on the Palestinians to give up their insistence on the right of return. The Israelis in their turn have made it clear that they will not support any categorical 'right of return' for the Palestinians--either to Israel itself or to the West Bank and Gaza. It is inconceivable that any Palestinian authority can yield to such pressure and retain its legitimacy in the eyes of its constituents, or--significantly, by exiled Palestinians in the diaspora. On the other hand it is clear that the Palestinian negotiators cannot simply go to the final status talks armed only with an abstract UN resolutions. Concessions at the practical level are bound to happen if at least some justice is to be realized for 1948 refugees.
One of the most succinct proposals for a final status positions in this regard was made by Rashid Khalidi, in his essay "Toward a Solution". Khalidi suggests a negotiated solution for resolving the claims of refugees based on five conditions:
**That Israel acknowledges its moral accountability for the creation of the Palestine refugee problem, including the means of socializing this recognition to the younger generation of Israelis.
**That Israel accepts in principle, the right of Palestinians and their descendants to return to their homes. The Palestinians--in return--will recognize that this right cannot be literally exercised inside 1948 Israel, and will have to exercise it in the state of Palestine. However as part of this conception, Israel should take into its domain several tens of thousands of refugees.Particularly those that have family members living inside Israel.
**A distinction should be made between reparations (for those who will not be allowed to return), and compensation (for those who lost property in 1948. Khalidi suggests the figure of $92-147 billion for property loss (1984 figures, based on Kubursi and Hadawi's assessment); and $40 billion in reparations, based on an estimate of $20,000 per person for 2 million people.
**Palestinian exiles should have the right to return to the future Palestinian state, or (implicitly) to the areas under the control of the Palestinian national authority.
**Palestinians who chose to remain in Jordan should would be offered the choice of having full citizenship rights, or "limited rights" as citizens of the Palestinian component of the Jordanian Palestinian confederation.
**Palestinians in Lebanon would be offered a choice: repatriation to the Palestinian state, return to the Galilee and acquisition of Palestinian citizenship, or the granting of permanent residency in Lebanon.
It is obvious that Khalidi is proposing here a package deal which will have to be negotiated simultaneously with the governments of Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan. While Khalidi's proposal is both original and practical (in the operational sense), I would differ with him on two crucial points: (1) Right of return to the areas of the Palestinian National Authority should not be conditional, or even linked, on the realization of claims to compensation or repatriation. It should be a separate act of sovereignty. In particular Palestinians should not enter into negotiations with Israel were the right of return to a mini-Palestine should be bartered off with the right of return to Israel itself. (2)Reparations to Jews who lost their homes in their original Arab countries should be a bilateral issue between Israel and the respective Arab states, and not one in which Palestinian would be embroiled as a party.
I would further add , given the complexity of assessing individual claims for lost properties, for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, that two separate forms of reparations be made. The first would be collective compensation, to be negotiated by the Palestinian state on behalf of Palestinian refugees in general, the results of which will be used to rebuild the infrastructure of the Palestinian state--which will be, in part the 'state of the returnees'. The second would be based on individual claims which will be negotiated between the state of Israel and representatives of the refugees. Since many of these refugees are not the subjects(or even future citizens) of the Palestinian State, the PNA wouldn't be a direct party to this second set of negotiations. The Conciliation Commission Report (1950) discusses precedents of such modalities applied in WWI and WWII, and to the Indo-Pakistani conflict in 1947.
First was the attempt to restrict the conditions of residency of Jerusalem Palestinians who lived outside municipal zones (June 1995) by withdrawing access to health and national insurance services for Jerusalemites who cannot establish actual residence within the city boundaries. Family reunification schemes which are available to West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, limited as they are,are virtually denied to Jerusalem Arabs. A Jerusalem census planned for October 1995 was seen as a prelude to get rid of those Jerusalemite Arab driven out of the city by building restrictions and local taxes to the northern suburbs.
This was followed by a campaign to close down Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem that were described as affiliated with the PNA. In August 1995 the Health Council, the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, and the National Broadcasting Authority (TV and Radio) were closed down by police order. Proceedings started against the Orient House, centre for the Palestinian Negotiating Team. These attempts were later rescinded under the condition that Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem publicly dissociate their connections with the PNA.
In reaction to this campaign to shut Palestinian institutions, Faisal Husseini reminded an Israeli audience on May 25th, 1995 that 70% of West Jerusalem property belonged to Palestinian Arab refugees from Talbieh, Lifta, Qatamoun, Baq'a, and other suburbs and villages that later formed the bulk of Israeli West Jerusalem.Meron Benvenisti, former deputy Mayor of Jerusalem confirmed that the much of the property in which West Jerusalemites live belonged to Arabs before 1948. In the 1967 census it was found that about 10,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem (16% of the population then) were born in the Western part of the city. With their descendants they constitute today over a quarter of the population of Arab Jerusalem. Today Palestinian Jerusalemites are treated as absentees as far as their West Jerusalem property is concerned,while Jews who have had property in the Eastern part are allowed to, and often establish their rights, to their pre-1948 property.
The 1995 confrontations over residency rights and uneven access to property claims have hastened the need for a clearer strategy over Jerusalem. The cornerstone of this strategy should be that the postponement of the Jerusalem issue to final status negotiations(in May 1995) should not allow Israeli to make major demographic and zoning (settlement) changes to ensure Jewish hegemony in the Arab sections of the city. In other words the status quo in Jerusalem should be preserved in such a way to ensure the survival of Palestinian institutions and the national integrity of the Arab population in the transitional period.
With the impending start of final status negotiations impending Palestinians are still caught in a situation were the repetition of an objective ('Arab Jerusalem is the capital of the future Palestinian state') has substituted the adoption of a strategy to bring about such an objective. The coming elections for the Palestinian Assembly, planned for the winter of 1995, is a good opportunity to develop such a strategy:
***In negotiating issues of residency rights and family reunification East Jerusalem should be seen as a regional extension of the West Bank.
***In negotiating the modalities of admission of displaced persons East Jerusalem should have equal status to the repatriation of its refugees from the war of 1967.
***Arab properties and material losses in West Jerusalem, part of the corpus seperatum in the partition plan, should be raised as Israeli Jews are making claims (and appropriating) properties in Silwan, Atarot [Qalandia] and the Jewish Quarter or the Old City.The Palestine Conciliation Commission has already established the aggregate inventory of these claims.
***The right of return to lost homes and properties in West Jerusalem should be raised on par with Jewish claims (and actual movement) to homes and properties in Arab Jerusalem.
***Jewish settlement in Arab Jerusalem (Ramat Eshkol, Ramot, NeveYa'cov) should be treated in the same manner as the status of Israeli colonial settlement in the West Bank and Gaza.
Finally the fact that Israelis today appear more intransigent on the issue of Jerusalem, elevating it to a non-negotiable status, is itself a strategy of psychological intimidation. The claim of non-negotiability is itself a violation of the Oslo Accords. The rights of West Jerusalem Palestinian refugees should have a high priority in the Palestinian agenda for final status negotiations since it combines two of the main postponed items in one category.
Within the areas that came under the control of the PNA in 1994,particularly in Gaza, infrastructural planning has incorporated urban refugee camps within schemes that served the city as a whole(sewage systems, electricity, etc.). This is often necessitated by logistic and technical considerations but it also reflects the PNA's position not to consider the juridical status of refugee camps until final status disposition of the refugee issue is resolved. In the meantime programs for health, job-training,education and research among refugees are almost invariably extended to the non-refugee population in the area.
In general social-class mobility has been a critical factor in the restructuring of the lives of refugee camp residents in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, and Jordan (but not Lebanon) with those refugees who become successful moving outside the camps, and integrating with the lives of local communities were they live. But this has been an issue of free individual choice and not one imposed on the refugee population. By contrast Israel has made several efforts tore-locate camps from Gaza city to Rafah and Khan Yunis, as well as from the Gaza district to Jericho. More recently the Ministry of Displaced Persons in Lebanon made an unsuccessful bid to relocate refugees from Beirut to the Shuf mountains. The only scheme for housing development for Palestinian refugees approved unanimously by the RWG was a US grant to rebuild destroyed shelters in Sabra and Shatila (Beirut), but this scheme was never approved by the Lebanese government.
Within the West Bank and Gaza the dismantling of the refugee camps should be a matter subject to a mutual agreement on their status,and acceptable to the refugees themselves, rather than an imposition dictated by Israel's conditions for a quota of returning refugees. In the Arab host countries, the liquidation of the refugee camps should be subject to the regularization of their legal and civil status within the host countries, and only after they receive the options of repatriation or resettlements. In all of these cases the refugee population should be a party to these agreements.
It might be mentioned here that although UN resolution on Palestinian refugees, particularly GA Res 194 and SC Res 237, are the proper international legal framework to address these issues,it is futile to reiterate these documents as magical refrains,hoping that they will have the desired effect. The consensual nature of the multilateral negotiations, as well as final status talks require that these resolutions be reexamined and operationalized into manageable categories.
Furthermore concern over the attitudes and reactions of diaspora Palestinians, is not only a question of political expediency, beta deeply rooted matter in public consciousness and in the yearning for uniting dispersed families across the regions of Palestine.Palestinian negotiators on the other hand are bound by constrains which dictate that issues of principle and ideological predisposition have be tempered by what is realizable and obtainable. The main constraints are:
(1) Since the borders between Israel and Palestine are more likely to be 'porous' than hermetically sealed (especially since the Rabin assassination) the Israeli negotiators are likely to slow down the return of large numbers of Palestinians to PNA areas on the grounds that either it might destablize the Palestinian authority (for economic reasons), or create a large pool of illegal labourers infiltrating to Israel.
(2) The possible return of large number of refugees within the next three years is going to create major pressure on the existing[underdeveloped] infrastructure of the Palestinian economy. One of the major challenges for the PNA is to create the necessary institutional structures (ministries and agencies of absorption),as well as to generate sufficient economic growth to absorb large number of returning Palestinians.
(3) Relations with Arab host countries, and the status of Palestinians in these countries are likely to be deeply affected by rising expectations among Palestinians to return. Among possible responses are:
***pressure on Palestinian refugees to 'go home' (Libya, Lebanon)before the conditions of return have matured;
***compelling Palestinians to make a decisive choice between resettlement and naturalization in the host country, or return to Palestine, before the conditions for such a choice have matured;
***refusal of Arab host countries to accept dual 'nationality' for Palestinians who chose to remain in the host countries while acquiring Palestinian permanent residency.
The Palestinian negotiator must therefore take into account both Arab and Israeli constraints, while attempting to respond to rising expectations for return on the part of tens of thousands of refugees in the diaspora. A public campaign should be launched,based on clearly delineated policy which would assure the Israelis that the return of Palestinian refugees, according to a phased plan, is in their ultimate interest since it would stabilize the Palestinian National Authority, and defuse the volatile political conditions of Palestinians in diaspora camps.
On the basis of the analysis made in section VIII above I would propose the following themes as constituting a viable Palestinian strategy towards the refugee negotiations:
A fund for compensating Palestinian refugees should be established to which the world community will be requested to subscribe. Israel should be a major contributor to this fund. Israeli claims for compensating, or repatriating, Jewish refugees from the Arab countries should be negotiated bilaterally with the respective Arab states concerned. The Palestinian negotiators should not get involved in a package deal based on the notion of 'exchanged population'.
Compensation should be paid at two levels: a. through a collective fund to be vested with the Palestinian National Authority in order to develop its own infrastructure and facilities destined to aid the absorption of returning refugees, and b. a family fund which will pay restitution to refugees on the basis of individual claims.
One alternative vision is to make the whole of Jerusalem open to both Israeli and Palestinian residency, subject obviously to certain administrative and zoning requirements, but those should not be based on differential discrimination according to nationality.
Refugee Working Group (RWG): One of the five multi-laterals (qv) in which over 40 states and international organization discuss the issue of Palestinian Refugees and their future in the Middle East peace process. Their are six regional parties to the RWG: Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Syria,Lebanon and the Palestinians. Both Syria and Lebanon have boycotted the RWG. The RWG has met six times (Moscow, Ottawa [twice], Oslo,Tunis, Antalya, and Cairo). Canada is the head of the RWG.
Intersessionals: Those are technical meetings convened by the multilaterals in between plenary sessions. The RWG has had a number of intersessionals to discuss the seven themes of the refugee committee. Those included intersessional on the definition of the family (Tunis 1994), and on refugee research and data basis (Oslo,1993-4), and family reunification (Paris, 1994).
Co-Sponsors: Russia and the US are the co-sponsors of the multi laterals according to the terms set in the Madrid Peace conference. They call for the steering committee and plenary sessions of the MLs.
Shepherds: Shepherds are the heads of sub-committees in the Multi-lateral negotiations. The RWG has six shepherds: (1) France (family reunification); (2) Norway (databases); (3) USA (Human Resource Development and Job Creation; (4) Italy (public health); (5) Sweden(Child Welfare); (6) The European Union (Economic development and social infrastructure).
Gavel Holders: Gavel Holders are the heads of the five working groups of the Multilaterals. They set the agenda of each plenary in consultation with the co-sponsors along the guidelines provided in the steering committee. Canada is the 'gavel' of the Refugee Working Group.Between 1992 and 1995 the Gavel holder of the RWG was Marc Peron,a civil servant from External Affairs who wrote the "Vision Paper on Refugees".
Quadripartite Committee: The Quadripartite Committee on Displaced Persons was established by the terms of the Oslo Accords (DOP) to discuss 'modalities for the admission of 1967 displaced persons to the West Bank and Gaza.'It is made up of delegates from Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Palestine. The QPC met for the first time in Amman in March 1995.It meets every three month at the ministerial level, and monthly as a technical committee of experts.
Displaced Persons: Dps are exiles from the West Bank and Gaza who lost their homes during, and as a consequence of, the war of 1967. Several meetings of the QPC were taken by the issue of defining who is included by the term 'displaced person'.
Refugee: The term 'refugee' designates Palestinians who lost their homes in 1948 in the areas that became later the state of Israel. UNRWA defines a Palestinian refugee as those permanent residents of Mandate Palestine in the years 1946-1948 who lost their homes and became exiles from the territories over which Israeli established control in the war of 1948. There were attempts made in the RWG to include in the term 'refugees' Jewish refugees to Israel, and other refugee minorities in the Middle East (Kurds, Southern Lebanese,etc.) but those were not accepted by the plenary of the RWG.
The Bajolet Report: Guidelines for enhancing the procedures for Family Reunification in the Occupied Territories made after the recommendations of the head of the French Shepherd to the RWG, Bernard Bajolet. The main features of this report stress the need for transparency in the procedures for FR schemes, and monitoring mechanisms for measuring progress made in implementing these procedures.
Vision Paper: A paper presented to the RWG by Marc Peron, Canadian head of the Committee between 1992-1995, to break the deadlock reached by negotiations over refugees. The paper attempts to open for debate what it calls 'taboos', such as the 'right of return' and 'resettlement of refugees.'
Late-Comers: Translation of the Hebrew term for Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza who lost their residency in the period (1967-1995) while travelling outside the country. The Israeli Military Administration has a policy of cancelling the residency of citizens who stay more than 3 years abroad. There are more than 120,000 such cases and they are being negotiated in the QuadripartiteCommittee.
Oslo 2: The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip which was signed in Washington on September 28th, 1995 containing significant guidelines for establishing residency for returning Palestinians (see Appendix 2, below).
In the Protocol Concerning Elections (Annex II--Right to Vote)articles (g) stipulates (inter alia):
"Any person who (1) will be at least 40 years old on January 1, 1996 and can provide satisfactory evidence that he or she has actually lived in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip continuously, except for short absences, for at least 3 years immediately prior to the date of the signing of this agreement; or (2) will be less than 40 years old on January 1, 1996 and can provide satisfactory evidence the he or she actually lived in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip continuously, except for short absences, for at least 4 years immediately prior to he signing of this agreement, SHALL be entitled, notwithstanding that he or she was not previously entered in the Population Register, to be entered in the Population Register and to receive the appropriate identity card. The Palestinian Authority and Israel, through the CAC, shall together invite applications to be so entered in the Population Register. Such applications shall be submitted prior to the date of the elections to the Civil Administration or the relevant joint Israeli-Palestinian liaison body as appropriate and shall be dealt with by the> Civil Administration or by both sides of such joint liaison body on an expedited basis to assist the process of registration". (pp 110-111, English Edition)
"[item 11] To reflect the spirit of the peace process, the Palestinian side has the right, with the prior approval of Israel, to grant permanent residency in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to a. investors, for the purpose of encouraging investment; b. spouses and children of Palestinian residents; and c. other persons, for humanitarian reasons, in order to promote and upgrade family reunification". (p. 161, English version)
"The Palestinian side shall have the right to register in the population registry all persons who were born abroad or in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, if under the age of sixteen years and either of their parents is a resident of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank"
The clause also grants the PNA to issue work and study permits, to be cleared by the Israelis, and also the right to grant permanent residency to employees who have been granted temporary (one year)work permits. (item 13, article 28)
Visitor who come from countries having diplomatic relations with Israel (item 14) are subject to the same regulations except that they can visit the Palestinian territories by obtaining an Israeli visa. No internal sponsorship is necessary for those visitors.
Item 15 stipulates that the Palestinian side "shall ensure that visitors...shall not overstay the duration of their entry permit".But it does not indicate what happens if this item is violated.
Article 28 in Annex III (Population Registry and Documentation)states that "a joint committee will be established to solve there issuance of identity cards to those residents who have lost their identity cards". (Annex III.28.3) The weakness of this clause is that it does not clarify the procedures involved, nor does it elucidate the authority of this joint committee. Nevertheless it does indicate that at last that the issue be addressed jointly.Again it is also not clear if Jerusalem residents will benefit from this clause.
Rex Brynen * email@example.com * 20 May 1996