|Much Ado About Nothing?
The Refugee Working Group and the Perils of Multilateral Quasi-negotiation
Source: International Negotiations 2, 2
by Rex Brynen, McGill University
Rex Brynen is associate professor of political
science at McGill University, and coordinator of Palestinian
Refugee ResearchNet (http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/mepp/mepp.html).
In 1994-95 he served as Jules Léger Fellow
with the Policy Staff of the Department of Foreign
Affairs and International Trade (Canada), and has
also served as a consultant to the Canadian International
Development Agency, the International Development
Research Centre, various UN agencies and the World
Bank. The views expressed in this article are his
own, and in no way represent the position of the Government
Among the various negotiations that comprise the multilateral
component of the Middle East peace process, the Refugee
Working Group faces perhaps the most intractable and
sensitive issue of all: the Palestinian refugee question.
The experience of the RWG can best be described as
one of "quasi-negotiation," in which discussion
among the parties has been hampered by differing views
as to the role of the working group, and indeed whether
it even represents a forum for negotiation. The implications
of RWG's insertion in a broader system of linked negotiations
is also explored, as is the impact of domestic constraints
on the participants, and various efforts by the Canadian
"gavel-holder" of the RWG to break the political
stalemate within the group. Finally, the article concludes
by assessing the potential role of mediation and multi-track
diplomacy in addressing this sensitive issue.
Although it has been the bilateral components of
the Arab-Israeli peace process that have received
the lion's share of media and scholarly attention,
the peace process begun at Madrid in October 1991
also contained an important multilateral component.
Specifically, a series of parallel negotiations were
established "to address those issues that are
common to the region" and that "can best
be addressed by the concerted effort of the regional
parties together with the support of the international
community and the resources and expertise that it
can provide" (Baker 1992a). At the first organizational
meeting of the multilaterals in Moscow in January
1992, five of these "working groups" were
established: arms control and regional security, environment,
water, regional economic development, and refugees.
The importance and effectiveness of the multilateral
track has been the subject of considerable debate.
Proponents have suggested that, "contrary to
all expectations, the multilateral talks have performed
a valuable role in moving relations between Israel
and the Arabs along the path towards a new era of
peace and prosperity," (Peters 1996: 74-75) or
have characterized the multilaterals as a "critical
instrument for promoting dialogue and regional cooperation,"
with the Refugee Working Group (RWG) in particular
having "facilitated a dialogue which had not
seriously occurred for over forty years" (Axworthy
1996).Critics have derided the multilaterals as comprising
the "seminar phase" of the peace process,
in which general discussion has been a substitute
for concrete initiatives and substantive negotiation.
Others argue that the multilaterals, while having
some role, are nonetheless a "sideshow"
This article will examine the activities and impact
of one aspect of the multilaterals, the Refugee Working
Group. In so doing, it will suggest that the RWG represents
a case of what might be termed "quasi-negotiation,"
wherein discussion among the regional parties has
been seriously hampered by differing views as to the
appropriate scope and contribution of the working
group. Most fundamentally, these differences concern
the question of whether the RWG is, or has been, a
negotiating forum at all. The implications of RWG's
insertion in a broader system of linked negotiations
will be addressed, as will the impact of domestic
constraints on the participants, and the potential
role of mediation and multi-track diplomacy. Finally,
the article will conclude by attempting to draw some
lessons regarding the dynamics of the multilateral
component of the Middle East peace process, as well
as the particular contribution of the RWG.
The Multilaterals and
As noted above, the multilaterals were integrated
into the original design of the Middle East peace
process in 1991-92. As such, they represented part
of the complex prenegotiation that had been necessary
to get all of the parties to the table. Arab participants
in the conflict had long demanded "comprehensive"
and "international" peace negotiations which
would involve a multilateral negotiating framework
(thus enabling Arab parties to pool their collective
negotiating resources), and external participants
(notably the United Nations, Europeans and erstwhile
USSR, who were seen as more sympathetic to Arab aspirations
than the United States). Israel, not surprisingly,
had long preferred a bilateral negotiating dynamic
(which would enable it to take best advantage of dyadic
asymmetries) and had opposed all external involvement
other than that of the US. Israel had also sought
symbolic acceptance of its existence and position
in the region--an aspect of "normalization"
that many Arab participants were reluctant to accept,
either for domestic political reasons, or in the belief
that Israeli isolation was a substantial Arab negotiating
card, better played at a later date.
The US view on negotiations generally mirrored Israeli
preferences, with regard to both direct bilateral
negotiations and a preeminent US mediatory role--both
of which had been characteristics of the earlier Egyptian-Israeli
negotiations at Camp David. Although both the Gulf
War and the decline of the USSR had confirmed the
US position as predominant actor in the Middle East,
the task in initiating the peace process remained
substantial: neither Israel (governed at the time
by a hard-line Likud government) nor the Palestinians
were particularly enthusiastic.
The architecture that was finally
adopted reflected a series of trade-offs. The multilaterals,
as well as the format of the formal opening of negotiations
in Madrid, were intended to meet Arab desires for
enlarged negotiating fora; Washington-based negotiations
between Israel and (separately) Syria, Lebanon, and
a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation addressed the most
important substantive issues in bilateral formats.
Within the multilaterals, the issues of water resources,
environment and especially regional economic development
would enable Israel to enlarge its contact with Arab
actors, and hence facilitate a degree of normalization.The
RWG, on the other hand, was largely intended to reward
the Palestinians for their participation in the broader
peace process, and for their acceptance of several
constraints on their participation. These constraints--demanded
by Israel as a precondition for its participation--included
formal Palestinian representation within the framework
of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, rather
than independently; restriction of Palestinian representation
to persons from the West Bank and Gaza, rather than
the diaspora; and a prohibition on the participation
of PLO officials.
It was also understood that the multilaterals
would generally operate by consensus, and that the
chairs of the working groups would act as facilitators
rather than exerting any procedural power or direction--an
aspect that was underscored by terming them "gavel
holders". At the Moscow meeting, Canada was selected
as gavel-holder for the RWG, and an overall steering
committee was also established for the multilaterals.
Of the working groups, the RWG was
clearly the most contentious of the five, touching
as it did on sensitive (and even existential) issues
for many of the parties. For Palestinians, the flight/expulsion
of up to three quarters of a million refugees from
Israel in 1948, and of a further 300,000 from the
West Bank and Gaza in 1967, had been defining national
In 1991, more than 2.5 million Palestinians were registered
with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency as
refugees, and more than half of the approximately
5.8 million Palestinians world-wide could be found
in the diaspora (CPAP 1992). For Israel, the Palestinian
refugee issue posed both a demographic threat to the
Jewish character of the state, and raised potentially
uncomfortable moral questions about the events of
1948. It was in the context of such sensitivities
that Canada had been assigned RWG gavel in Moscow,
since it was seen by Washington as cautious and reliable
while being acceptable to Israel and (less importantly)
the other regional parties.
Subsequently, the September 1993
Palestinian-Israeli Declaration of Principles ("Oslo
Agreement") established two other fora for addressing
the refugee issue. The first was the Palestinian-Israeli-Jordanian-Egyptian
continuing (or "quadripartite") committee,
formed in compliance with Article XII of the Oslo
agreement to "decide by agreement on the modalities
of admission of persons displaced from the West Bank
and Gaza Strip in 1967, together with the necessary
measures to prevent disruption and disorder."
Second, the Oslo agreement called for "final
status" negotiations on the refugee issue (as
well as the issues of settlements, security arrangements,
borders, and Jerusalem) to begin by May 1996.
With the subsequent establishment of interim self-government
in Gaza and portions of the West Bank, many Palestinian
refugees came under the limited jurisdiction of the
Palestinian Authority (PA), further affecting the
dynamics of the process.
The sensitivity of the RWG was fully
evident in the first two plenary meetings of the working
group, held in Ottawa in May and November 1992. From
the outset, the Palestinians included some delegation
members from outside of the West Bank and Gaza, something
which Israel complained was a violation of the Madrid
ground rules. Both the US and the Canadian gavel,
however, felt that it was vital to include diaspora
Palestinians in a working group intended to address
the refugee issue.
The result was an Israeli boycott of the May 1992
RWG plenary. The boycott, however, had little effect:
the meeting was held anyway, and in Israel's absence
a series of "themes" were identified that
would come to comprise the RWG agenda: human resource
development, job creation and vocational training
(with the US acting as "shepherd" for this
theme), public health (Italy), child welfare (Sweden),
economic and social infrastructure (EU), databases
(Norway), and family reunification (France).
Although the themes were delineated so as to facilitate
future Israeli participation, Israel was particularly
unhappy with the issue of "family reunification,"
which seemed to touch upon Palestinian demands for
a "right of return"--something that Israel
had consistently opposed. In order to have greater
influence over agenda-setting, and with a new Labor
government in power, Israel agreed to participate
in the second Ottawa meeting. However a new crisis
erupted when it became publicly known that the head
of the Palestinian delegation, Mohammed Hallaj, was
a member of the Palestine National Council, the PLO's
In a somewhat surrealistic scene, a pre-RWG cocktail
reception became the site of intense negotiations
between the Israeli and Palestinian delegations, in
which the the former discussed with Hallaj their inability
to hold formal discussions with him. In the end, the
difficulty was overcome by Hallaj's announcement that
he was not technically a member of the PNC when it
was not in session, a face-saving formula than enabled
Israeli participation. However, Israel later walked
out of the November 1992 meeting in continued resistance
to the family reunification theme.
By the time of the third plenary
meeting of the RWG
in Oslo in May 1993, the question of Palestinian representation
was no longer troublesome, in part because the increased
pace of Palestinian-Israeli bilateral negotiation
(and the close engagement of the PLO in the process)
had rendered it moot. This was even more the case
by the time of the fourth plenary meeting in Tunis
in October 1993, occurring as it did in the wake of
the Palestinian-Israeli Declaration of Principles
and formal, mutual political recognition between Israel
and the PLO. Coincidentally, the Tunis meeting was
the first multilateral plenary to be held in the region.
Subsequent RWG plenary sessions were held in May 1994
(Cairo), December 1994 (Antalya), and December 1995
The Internal Dynamics
of the RWG
To Negotiate, or Not to Negotiate? Quasi-negotiation
in the RWG
As noted earlier, the RWG has been afflicted
by very serious differences between Israel and the
Palestinians (and other Arab participants) over both
the nature of the refugee issue and the role of the
RWG in addressing that issue. The result was a process
of what has been termed herein "quasi-negotiation,"
characterized by disagreement among the parties as
to whether they are negotiating, and what it is they
might be negotiating about.
For the Palestinians, the RWG has been seen as an
opportunity to address a fundamental political issue,
and to do so in a multilateral framework that includes
both supportive Arab states and the broader international
community. Central to the Palestinian position has
been to assert the importance of various UN resolutions,
notably UN General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of
December 1948. UNGAR 194 declares, inter alia, that
"refugees wishing to return to their homes and
live at peace 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 in
equity, should be made good by the governments or
authorities responsible." The Palestinian side,
while not opposed to socio-economic initiatives, expressed
repeated concern at attempts to separate the political
from the humanitarian, fearing that this might represent
an effort to naturalize refugees and avoid the question
of national rights:
The Palestinians saw in the RWG a forum to deal with
concrete issues; though humanitarian in their essence,
the issues nonetheless had a political dimension to
them, such as family reunification. Also, and equally
important, the Palestinians were unwilling to divorce
improvements in living conditions, such as building
new homes for the refugees, from their political implications
(Zureik 1996: 92; see also Tamari 1996a).
By contrast, Israel initially maintained that the
RWG should address all regional refugees, including
Jews who had fled from Arab countries. This view won
some weak early endorsement from the US, but was largely
abandoned when it became clear that other participants
thought that the focus of the RWG should be on Palestinian
refugees. Israel has also strenuously opposed any
suggestion of a Palestinian "right of return;"
equally strongly opposed any attempt to establish
UNGAR 194 as a basis for anything; and has emphasized
that the RWG should be concerned with humanitarian
rather than political issues (on the Israeli position,
see Gazit 1995). After the signing of the Oslo agreement,
this position was pressed still harder, with Israel
arguing (Beilin 1993) that political issues were essentially
excluded from the RWG by virtue of their being addressed
in the quadripartite committee (for 1967 "displaced
persons") and proposed final status talks (for
1948 "refugees"). In the longer term, many
Israeli decision-makers have made clear their preference
that the refugee issue be resolved primarily through
the political absorption of refugees into their current
countries of exile.
For the US, there has always been a certain amount
of ambiguity regarding the role and contribution of
the multilaterals. This ambiguity has reflected not
only diplomatic caution and changing circumstances,
but also different views within the State Department.
At the outset of the process, US Secretary of State
James Baker noted that the multilateral track:
"...is in no way a substitute for what we are
trying to promote in the bilateral negotiations. Only
the bilateral talks can address and one day resolve
the basic issues of territory, security and peace
which the parties have identified as the core elements
of a lasting and comprehensive peace...But it is true
that these bilateral negotiations do not take place
in a vacuum, and that the condition of the region
at large will affect them. In short, the multilateral
talks are intended as a complement to the bilateral
negotiations: each can and will buttress the other.
An unspoken desire was also to "socialize"
Arab and Israeli participants into cooperative interaction.
Within the State Department, some were more supportive
of an active role for the multilaterals; others appeared
less interested in their possible contribution. Whether
this was indeed the case, or whether different views
are simply the product of differing political contexts
and bureaucratic responsibilities, staff rotation
at State coincided with an apparent decline in US
interest in the multilateral track.
Moreover, with the September 1993 Declaration of Principles
and the consequent invigoration of the bilaterals
(including the October 1994 Jordanian-Israeli peace
treaty), US interest in the multilaterals waned. The
Oslo agreement made the US even more wary about risk-taking
in the multilaterals which might adversely affect
burgeoning bilateral negotiations. Finally, outside
actors often perceived an innate US suspicion (born
of superpower status) of the entangling requirements
of multilateral politics.
Against this backdrop, US signals to the RWG were
often mixed. At times, some US decision-makers encouraged
the gavel to be more provocative in encouraging the
regional parties to address the elements of a settlement
of the refugee issue. In this regard, intersessional
activities, away from the spotlight and involving
smaller delegations from a smaller group of countries,
could productively address thorny issues; so might
"track two" efforts under academic or other
auspices. At other times, the US signalled caution,
fearing that rancour in the RWG might harm rather
than help the bilateral process. In Ottawa, American
signals were important: not only has the US been the
primary mediator in the peace process, but Washington
is also by far Canada's most important foreign policy
relationship. At the same time, the degree of trust
and excellent working relationship between the Department
of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)
and the Department of State almost certainly gave
Canada a degree of flexibility that other countries
might not have enjoyed.
Canadian views of the potential contribution
of the RWG also evolved throughout the process. Initially,
efforts were largely focussed on disaster-avoidance,
whereby convening a meeting without a dysfunctional
breakdown over the many sensitive aspects of the issue
was, in and of itself, a measure of success. Here,
the "socialization" aspect of the multilaterals--simply
establishing the normality of a Palestinian-Israeli
dialogue on refugees--was primary. The very existence
of the RWG was also seen by Canada as an important
signal to diaspora Palestinians that their interests
would be addressed within the broader peace process.
Later, in the wake of the momentum generated by the
Oslo agreement, RWG gavel-holder (1992-95) Marc Perron
grew more ambitious, encouraging the parties to think
of the strategic role that the working group might
play in support of final status negotiations, whether
through providing negotiators with useful data, encouraging
scenario-generation, or even as a possible venue for
cautious prenegotiation. In the fall of 1995 the tenor
of the Canadian approach changed when Andrew Robinson
(1995- ) replaced Perron as RWG gavel-holder: whereas
Perron's frankness had endeared him to many and alienated
others, Robinson tended to be more incremental and
The Entanglements of Two-Level Games
Complicating things still further were the "two-level"
games being played by various parties, whose participation
in the RWG was heavily constrained by domestic political
calculations (Putnam 1988; see also Brynen 1994).
For senior Palestinian decision-makers, the question
of refugees has been a relatively low priority; of
much greater concern have been territorial issues
and the mobilization of political and economic support
for the PA. The establishment of the PA also lessened
the already declining political weight of the diaspora
community in the PLO. On the other hand, the refugee
issue is one of considerable emotive salience within
Palestinian public opinion, with UNRWA-registered
refugees comprising more than half of the population
of the West Bank and Gaza. The net result of this
was to encourage the Palestinian leadership to publicly
and rhetorically maintain their traditional positions
on the refugee issue for domestic consumption, while
devoting relatively little high-level attention or
diplomatic resources to the refugee issue. Personal
and factional maneuvering within the Palestinian Authority
and even inside the Palestinian delegations further
impeded flexibility and dynamism.
For Israel, the refugee issues was seen as a highly
sensitive one domestically, and an equally low priority
in the context of broader Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
Consequently, there was also little incentive to show
flexibility or energy in approaching the RWG, and
every incentive to try to limit RWG engagement to
quiet, non-controversial areas.
In both Canada and the US, domestic opinion--and
especially pro-Israeli lobbying efforts from within
the Jewish community--have had important effects on
Middle East foreign policy formation. In early Canadian
planning meetings for the first RWG plenary, for example,
possible domestic fallout was evidently a very important
consideration. Over time, however, these constraints
were substantially relaxed, with pro-Israeli (and
pro-Palestinian) groups exerting little pressure over
Canada's role in the multilaterals. In the US, the
refugee issue was also a low priority for domestic
interest groups, and was rarely mentioned. However,
domestic factors did play a role in sustaining what
most multilateral participants saw as Washington's
pro-Israeli tilt, with this tilt becoming more pronounced
with the accession of the Clinton administration in
A final characteristic of the multilateral track that
must be emphasized is the extent to which it has been
fundamentally affected by the character and dynamics
of Palestinian-Israeli bilateral relations. In this
sense, the RWG has been part of an interactively linked
system of negotiations, in which developments on one
track can affect negotiations on another.
This was amply demonstrated by the Oslo agreement,
which substantially improved the tone of Palestinian-Israeli
interaction even as it "reengineered" system
linkages by establishing new negotiating fora. For
Israel, such reengineering provided an opportunity
to further narrow the RWG's scope. On the Palestinian
side there was less clarity on how system linkages
might best be utilized or reengineered, although the
general view appeared to be that there was "a
need to consolidate links between working groups in
the multilateral peace talks and the bilateral talks"
(Tamari 1996a: 28; see also Shaml 1996).
Within this linked system of negotiations, the multilateral
character of the RWG has been both helpful and an
impediment. On the one hand, the RWG has included
the central actors (Israel, the Palestinians) and
key stake-holders (Jordan, Egypt, other regional parties),
although it has been seriously constrained by the
boycott of Syria and Lebanon. Broader international
engagement by extra-regional parties has been helpful
at both demonstrating international concern and mobilizing
international resources for refugee projects. On the
other hand, a significant portion of the delegations
that attend RWG plenaries (over forty delegations
in 1996) bring very little of value to the table,
and indeed may be represented by lower-level diplomats
unaware of either the history of the multilaterals
or the complex issues at stake. Moreover, by operating
on a consensual multilateral basis, the key regional
actors retain a de facto veto. According to Andrew
...unlike the other working groups, the RWG is not
only intensely political but it has to do with the
fundamental problem which lies at the heart of the
Palestinian question--the incontrovertible existence
of the Palestinian refugees. Because this issue is
so central it also overlaps to a great extent with
the bilateral negotiations. Unfortunately this sometimes
leads the parties principally concerned to view the
multilateral group as a forum for making points or
reinforcing their negotiating agenda on the bilateral
tracks. When however one is already operating under
[the constraint of] consensus, it is clear that such
tactics can render agreement more difficult, and we
have suffered somewhat from this at earlier stages
of the process (Robinson 1996b: 3).
The result, as is typically the case
in large group settings, is a tendency to lowest-common-denominator
outputs and pronouncements which make full use of
ambiguity and breadth to disguise continuing disagreements.
RWG gavel summaries, compiled at the end of each plenary
session, have been the most obvious manifestation
Collectively, these factors have made any progress
within the RWG extremely slow and difficult. Former
gavel-holder Marc Perron often spoke of the issue
as being beset by "red lines" and "taboos,"
which made it difficult to even mention, let alone
discuss, many of the issues (return, repatriation,
camp rehabilitation, resettlement, compensation, citizenship)
that were clearly critical to resolving the issue.
Current RWG gavel-holder Andrew Robinson has noted
that "the purely humanitarian approach, which
has been mostly what has been possible until now,
does not really allow us to get to the heart of the
issue" (Robinson 1996b: 6). Palestinian negotiators
have expressed concern that consensuality has denuded
the RWG of political content; Israeli negotiators
have rarely pronounced publicly on the RWG at all
(which is probably revealing in and of itself).
Given this, what initiatives might external parties
take to facilitate progress in the RWG, and (via the
RWG) the broader peace process? This is a mediatory
challenge which has confronted the US, Canada, and
The initial response, evident in
the setting of the RWG agenda at the first two Ottawa
plenaries, was to attempt to fractionate the complex
and sensitive refugee issue into a series of more
manageable dimensions. Many of these were largely
humanitarian, building on cautious agreement between
the Palestinian and Israeli delegations to "improve
the current living conditions of refugees without
prejudice to their rights and future status."
However, two of the RWG's themes--databases and family
reunification--were potentially more "political,"
touching upon sensitive issues, and with direct implications
for resolution of the refugee issue. Later, other
initiatives were undertaken by the gavel-holder.
One early and very important RWG "success"
appeared to be database activities, a theme shepherded
by Norway and undertaken by the Norwegian social research
institute FAFO. FAFO's survey of living conditions
in the West Bank and Gaza, which was presented to
the May 1993 plenary of the RWG, was the initial vehicle
for the Norwegian-facilitated back-channel negotiations
between the PLO and Israel which led to the Oslo agreement.
However, while the RWG did encourage FAFO's scholarly
activities, it is clear that the initiative was conceived
and implemented independently of the working group.
More generally, the database theme was intended to
assist in "defining the scope of the refugee
problem, establish priorities for action and assess
the impact of alternative political choices"
(DFAIT 1994). The importance and sensitivity of this
aspect is underlined by the fact that there is little
agreement among the regional parties about who is
a refugee (or "displaced person"), how many
refugees there are, their living conditions (especially
in Lebanon), the costs and financing of possible final
status arrangements (notably compensation), and what
the socio-economic and other consequences of their
possible return to Palestinian territory.
In practice, however, RWG efforts
have tended to avoid the most sensitive aspects of
the data issue. At times, the constraint has been
host government attitude. In Jordan, a FAFO living
conditions survey in had to be carefully negotiated,
although it did ultimately generate a significant
amount of valuable data. In Lebanon, both the authorities
and Palestinian refugees alike are very suspicious
of any research activities in that country. Other
times, academic work on the refugee issue focussed
excessively on technical issues and was poorly linked
to the political requirements of negotiations. Finally,
Norway had extra reason to be careful: like the US,
it had a much larger stake in mediation of Palestinian-Israeli
bilateral negotiations, and was therefore loathe to
undertake sensitive RWG database activities which
might imperil that broader task.
France, as shepherd for the family reunification theme,
also played an active role early in the RWG. French
diplomat Bernard Bajolet made a series of visits to
the region in 1993 to discuss the issue, subsequently
producing a number of recommendations (the "Bajolet
Report") on the issue. An intersessional experts
meeting was also held on the topic in February 1994.
The RWG, and France's activities within that framework,
undoubtedly contributed to Israel's October 1993 announcement
that it would raise the rate of family reunification
from 1,000 to 2,000 cases (up to 6,000 individuals)
per year. Israel also agreed, before and after the
Tunis meeting, to revise some procedural aspects (Tamari
1996a: 9-16). Reflecting Israeli views of the RWG,
these were generally portrayed by Israeli officials
as unilateral humanitarian gestures, rather than as
the outcome of a negotiating process.
In practice, the actual rate of family reunification
remained much lower than the promised levels; moreover,
procedures were complicated by subsequent agreements
regarding Palestinian self-government. Many Israelis
feared that the reunification of Palestinian families
in the West Bank and Gaza was the prelude to a broader
"right of return" which might also include
1948 territories. Members of Israel's Likud opposition
attacked the Labor government for considering the
return of any Palestinians to even 1967 areas, likening
them to "a sword of Damocles" over Israel's
head (Sharon 1995). After Likud's May 1996 electoral
victory, family reunification appears to have slowed
or even stopped, while in Jerusalem a growing number
of Palestinians found their residency permits revoked
In the face of this, France did not attend an informal
consultative meeting of the RWG held in Jordan in
November 1996 in apparent protest of the lack of progress
on reunification. It did, however, agree to mediate
an Israeli-Palestinian "meeting" on the
The Vision Paper
Perhaps the most innovative mediator initiative undertaken
in the context of the RWG was the gavel's "Vision
Paper" of 1995, which attempted not only to outline
the challenges facing the working group, but also
to suggest some possible responses. The idea for vision
papers had first developed out of a very successful
meeting of the steering group of the multilaterals,
held in Montebello, Québec in February 1994.
Further impetus was provided by the steering group
at a meeting in Tabarka, Tunisia in July 1994. There
it was decided to undertake a comprehensive study
which would (in the words of the head of the US delegation,
Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Robert
Pelletreau) represent "an attempt to take a long
term view of the region ten years into the future"
and constitute "both a vision and a set of priorities
for each of the working groups to pursue as they move
towards realization of the vision." Chapters
on each of the multilateral working group subjects
were to be drafted by the gavel holders in consultation
with the regional parties.
As gavel-holder, Canada was initially alarmed at
the vision paper exercise: it seemed a daunting and
potentially divisive task to generate an agreed vision
of the future on a topic in which there was so much
fundamental disagreement. Consultations with regional
parties provided little in the way of guidance.
The response by the gavel-holder
was to focus less on the vision of the future,
and much more on the modalities whereby agreement
among the regional parties might be fostered. The
idea was to use the opportunity presented by the vision
paper exercise to both generate new mechanisms for
discussion and even prenegotiation, and at the same
time exorcise some of the conceptual and terminological
demons which had inhibited the working group by addressing
them in a manner--namely, a non-public and Canadian-authored
paper--that minimized the political risk to the regional
The US and Russia (the multilateral cochairs) were
asked for feedback on the draft paper before it was
formally circulated. Both were supportive, offering
a few relatively minor revisions, most of which were
accommodated in the final version.
In the former connection, the vision
paper emphasized such possibilities as "strategic
policy support, enhanced dialogue activities, and
future monitoring/support for bilateral and multilateral
agreements." Policy support would include research
aimed at "providing the kind of mutually-accepted,
objective and policy-relevant data required to inform
negotiating processes, underwrite political decisions
and define solutions, support the implementation of
existing agreements, and facilitate the conclusion
of future understandings." Some concrete examples
were provided: improved data on refugee numbers and
conditions; the provision of more detailed data on
the potential pool of family reunification claimants;
assessment of the absorptive capacity of the West
Bank/Gaza (in support of any return of refugees to
those areas); the implications and modalities of any
future transfer of UNRWA functions to the PA; requirements
and possible modalities for any future compensation
mechanisms. "Enhanced dialogue" would involve
"additional mechanisms for encouraging dialogue,
identifying, developing and testing options, and generating
political scenarios," including both quiet, small-group
RWG intersessional activities and the encouragement
of track two initiatives.
Finally, the vision paper expressed an RWG willingness
to participate in monitoring and supporting whatever
transitional and final arrangements were reached by
the regional parties.
Canada also used the vision paper to encourage the
parties to address a whole series of political "taboos":
return, resettlement, rehabilitation, compensation,
citizenship, and so forth. The paper was careful to
balance its listing of sensitive issues, characterizing
them as "questions commonly raised in the region--by
concerned individuals, journalists, scholars, and
government officials--regarding future resolution
of the refugee issue." No Canadian or RWG policy
preference was stated or implied.
The vision paper exercise was an undertaking by the
Canadian mediator to use a range of mediatory and
negotiating instruments--informal meetings, track
two initiatives, "consultative" expert processes
and prenegotiation problem-solving discussions (Fisher
1989: 442-474)--to break through some of the constraints
which had prevented the RWG from addressing the core
political aspects of the refugee issue. The initiative,
One major reason for this came from outside the RWG,
once again underscoring the linked nature of the peace
process. When the multilateral steering committee
met in Montreux in May 1995 to address the various
vision papers, the discussion was largely sidelined
by a growing dispute over Israeli settlement construction
in East Jerusalem (Peters 1996: 69). More generally,
the rapidly growing extent of Palestinian-Israeli
interaction and negotiations (increasingly focussed
on the implementation and expansion of Palestinian
self-government), Israeli-Jordanian cooperation (in
the wake of their 1994 peace treaty) and a degree
of regional normalization (manifest in the Casablanca
and Amman economic summits) all appeared to decrease
the relative salience of the formal multilateral track
of the peace process. Certainly, by the time of the
Monreux meeting, the US seemed to have lost its earlier
enthusiasm for the vision paper exercise.
Israeli and Palestinian reactions to the vision paper
also played a key role. Israeli reaction varied among
officials, but was generally negative. Some diplomatically
described the paper as overambitious and premature.
Others expressed horror that the dreaded "R"
word--the Palestinian "right of return"--had
made it to paper, even in the context of a list of
taboos. At Montreux, the Israelis too lost interest
in continuing with the vision papers.
The Palestinians also objected to
the listing of another sensitive "R" issue,
in their case "resettlement." More importantly,
the Palestinian delegation, which had been expected
to welcome greater RWG attention to the political
dimensions of the refugee issue, failed to build on
this aspect of the paper. Reflecting the sometimes
disorganized state of PA management of the multilaterals,
there was no single Palestinian response to the paper
but rather a series of individual (and inconsistent)
communications by RWG delegation members, most of
whom were full-time scholars rather than professional
diplomats. One of these was posted on the internet
before it was formally received by Canada.
Although the Palestinians would belatedly recognize
some of the advantages of the vision paper in 1996,
the recognition came too late to be of much effective
Although external factors were primary in the failure
of the vision paper, factors internal to the Canadian
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
also led to a certain loss of momentum. The then Canadian
ambassador to Tel Aviv, Norman Spector, was unenthusiastic
about the vision paper, and indeed would later describe
the multilaterals as a "sideshow" and Canada's
role as "biased," "flaccid," and
"marginal" (Spector 1996b). In Ottawa, some
suspected that Spector--a political appointee under
the previous Conservative government--was "spinning"
both his presentation to the Israelis and his reporting
of their reaction to suit his policy preferences.
Further compounding matters was a series of coincidental
foreign service rotations which saw Perron leave Ottawa
to become Canadian ambassador to Mexico; Robinson
return from a posting as ambassador to Jordan to take
up the position of RWG gavel-holder; and Spector succeeded
by a new Canadian ambassador in Tel Aviv. Naturally,
a delay of several months followed as the new team(s)
took charge of their portfolios.
Another institutional constraint
was the difficulty of interfacing current and potential
track two activities with the structures of formal
diplomacy. Part of the problem was attitudinal, reflecting
the perennial political-cultural gap that exists between
scholars and diplomats (George 1993; Brynen 1996,
1997). Moreover, if scholarly and other projects on
the refugee issue were to be most productive, it was
important that they operate autonomously from foreign
ministries. Yet it was also apparent (as it had been
with earlier database activities) that many scholars
had a poor sense of how to contribute to the negotiating
process. Some were also poorly informed about political
developments, or their knowledge tended to lag behind
events. The Middle East peace process created a wave
of "rentier scholarship", in which some
academics retooled old activities or pet projects
in the search for new money from Western donors; equally
donors sometimes saw academic projects as a quick
way of producing something "announcable."
In the case of the RWG, some donors funded some useful
projects, and networking among academic experts was
facilitated by the establishment of an email listserv
and later a website.
Individually, none of these factors--obstacles and
advancements on the bilateral track, initial Israeli
and Palestinian reactions, internal factors within
DFAIT, or the difficulties in interfacing official
and track two initiatives--would have derailed the
vision paper exercise. Collectively, however, they
led to the process being put into abeyance by the
end of 1995.
With the failure of the vision paper, the RWG continued--and
continued to be inhibited by the same factors which
had constrained it in the past. An opening, however,
seemed to be presented at the December 1995 plenary
of the RWG, when both the Israeli and Palestinian
delegations agreed that the concept of "adaptation"
might provide a useful rubric for future activities
of the group. The term itself remained cloaked in
considerable ambiguity--it seemed wide enough to encompass
both Israeli preferences for the rehabilitation of
camps and resettlement of Palestinian refugees in
their current locales, and Palestinian desires for
return and repatriation--but at least the "A
word," unlike the various "R words,"
was a point of apparent agreement. The parties also
agreed to make greater use of smaller coordination
meetings, something which had not been possible earlier,
and which might generate a more productive atmosphere.
To follow up on the concept of "adaptation",
a smaller intersessional meeting was planned for Rome
in the summer of 1996, prior to which a Canadian concept
paper (produced by Canada's International Development
Research Centre) was circulated. The paper formally
emphasized "adaptation to a changing political,
social and economic environment in the West Bank and
Gaza." More importantly, however, the adaptation
paper attempted to tread a careful balance between
"adaptation" in two other senses: first,
adaptation to new realities, notably the establishment
of the Palestine Authority, and the potential rehabilitation
of West Bank/Gaza refugee camps; and second, adaptation
by Palestinian returnees. This latter group explicitly
concerned the more than 50,000 persons--predominantly
Palestinian security personnel, bureaucrats and their
families--who had returned since Oslo, but also had
meaning for those refugees who might return under
final status arrangements. Specifically, it proposed
strengthening the institutional capacity of the PA
and Palestinian NGOs; improved coordination of aid
projects through the use of RWG mechanisms; further
research, notably on the absorption of returnees;
and broader consultation with the refugees themselves.
The Palestinian reaction was wary, in part reflecting
internal differences that had arisen since the last
RWG plenary. RWG delegation member Salim Tamari wrote:
[Adaptation] was introduced into the jargon of the
RWG after suggestions were made to the Gavel that
issues of absorption and reintegration should be injected
into the debate of the plenary in order to move the
paralysis of the refugee group following the Antalya
meeting in December 1994. Since the 'notion' of absorption
proved too contentious for some of the parties in
the RWG, raising the possibility of refugee return,
the more "neutral" term 'adaptation' was
But since adaptation carries with it the sense of
ADJUSTMENT to existing conditions--an interpretation
which was and continues to be objected to by the Palestinians,
it seems that this paper attempts to inject the possibilities
of RECONSTRUCTION inherent in the term.
The thrust of this paper seems to demonstrate the
utility of the concept of 'adaptation' to Palestinians
who are re-entering Palestinian society and require
help in this process of adjustment....
[However] the term 'adaptation' is much too broad
to have operational utility. We can enhance its instrumental
meaning if we combine it with notions of absorption
and reintegration of Palestinian returnees. Otherwise
it carries the implied notions of adjustment to lopsided
and underdeveloped realities which the Palestinians
inherited from 28 years of Israeli rule (Tamari 1996b;
see also Zureik 1996: 93).
Unlike the vision paper, neither party had strenuous
objections to any particular section of the adptation
paper. However, the planned intersessional was derailed
by two other developments. The first was the election
in May 1996 of a hard-line new Israeli government
under Benjamin Netanyahu. the refugee issue had been
difficult before; it was even more difficult to see
grounds for agreement given the position of the new
government on the question.
The second obstacle--hearkening back
to the representational issues of 1992-93--arose when
a long-time Jewish member of the PLO was appointed
to the Palestinian delegation. The head of the Israeli
delegation objected strenuously to this. Following
consultations between Ottawa and Washington, it was
decided that the acrimonious collapse of an RWG meeting
would be a poor way to usher the new Israeli government
into the multilaterals. Consequently, a diplomatic
excuse was found for cancelling the intersessional
Some of the issues raised in the
adaptation paper may resurface, however, in other
forms. At (or, more accurately, alongside) the Petra
coordination meeting of November 1996, for example,
the Canadian delegation presented the idea of introducing
conceptual "baskets" to the work of the
RWG. Some of these overlapped with issues raised in
the earlier Canadian papers.
Assessing the RWG:
Theory and Practice
With the failure of the "adaptation" initiative,
and against the backdrop of deteriorating relations
between the Palestinian Authority and the Netanyahu
government, the RWG continued to face problems. In
November 1996 an informal coordination meeting of
the group held in Jordan produced better atmospherics,
but no new initiatives. In March 1997 an Arab League
decision to boycott all multilateral track activities
in protest of Israeli settlement construction upset
plans to hold an overdue plenary session of the RWG.
With growing violence in the area, and with multiple
postponements of final status negotiations (originally
scheduled for May 1996, and then postponed to March
1997, then postponed still further), the prospects
for fruitful Palestinian-Israeli official discussions
on the refugee issue now seem dim.
Given this, what can be concluded about the dynamics
of the RWG? What, in terms of negotiation theory,
does the RWG experience tell us? And what are the
lessons and challenges for mediation in the refugee
The RWG and Negotiations Theory
Perhaps the most important lessons concern what might
be labelled--at the risk of terminological implosion--the
difficulties of linked, asymmetrical, constrained,
multilateral quasinegotiation. The multilaterals are
clearly part of a broader set of linked negotiations,
and are deeply affected both by outcomes at other
levels and by the reengineering of systemic linkages.
The RWG has been fundamentally asymmetrical--despite
its multilateral character--because of the very serious
disparity of power between the Palestinians and Israel.
This inequality, coupled with Israel's desire to maintain
the status quo (that is to say, the presence of refugees
outside Palestine) has made it extremely difficult
for the Palestinian side to extract compromises. Recent
discussions of asymmetrical negotiation have highlighted
debate over whether conditions of asymmetry are propitious
for, or inhibiting of, successful negotiation (Rubin
and Zartman 1995). In the RWG, many of the usual responses
of weaker parties--coalition-building, inhibiting
tactics, focussed attention, and so forth--have not
been consistently applied, in part for reasons of
weak institutional capacity and poor policy planning
within the PA. As one Palestinian negotiator frankly
expressed the situation, "the official Palestinian
position appears reactive: it responds to crises and
initiatives from the outside, but lacks an articulated
agenda and a clear position" (Zureik 1996: 94).
As a result, refugee discussions have had less of
a transformative effect than might be expected. The
procedural rules, emphasizing as they do the consensual
and multilateral character of the discussions, make
progress even slower, by providing each regional party
with a practical veto over formal multilateral initiatives.
The existence of second-level, domestic constraints
on both actors has heightened this immobilism still
further, as has the lower priority presently assigned
to the refugee issue by Israel, the Palestine Authority
and the US. In this context, there is little incentive
for parties to move away from their traditional positions.
Finally, the RWG in particular has
been limited by the peculiarities of what here is
termed quasinegotiation--that is, a situation where
not all the parties at the negotiating table in fact
believe themselves to be "at the table."
For Israel, smaller groups (bilateral negotiations,
the quadripartite committee) are seen as more advantageous
venues than the RWG for addressing the political elements
of the refugee question, and consequently it has sought
to confine the RWG to a largely symbolic fund-raising
and aid coordination role. The Palestinian position
has been more varied, but it is clear that the PA
has developed no systematic and consistent view of
what role the RWG has, what purposes it can serve,
and how it can be used in conjunction with other linked
Compounding this have been a number of actor-specific
institutional effects: the impact of internal Palestinian
politics; of foreign service rotations in Canada and
the US; and even of idiosyncratic factors associated
with individual participants. Methodologically and
theoretically, these point to the importance of bureaucratic
and organizational variables, as well as to the importance
of process-tracing in negotiations analysis. Practically,
all of these factors have clearly affected the course
of the RWG (and other multilaterals) at key moments.
The RWG and the Challenge
of Third Party Mediation/Facilitation
The sheer magnitude of the challenges presented by
the refugee issue, and the configuration of that issue
within the RWG, makes political progress difficult.
It also makes mediation, facilitation, or "gavel-holding"
(in the deliberately passive language of the multilaterals)
a thankless task, with the parties themselves unsure
that they wish to be at the table--let alone mediated--in
the first place. In the case of the RWG, the gap between
the hopes of the NGO, academic and refugee communities,
and the realities of painfully slow progress (if any),
have created a serious problem of unmet expectations.
This has been compounded by the non-public way in
which the multilaterals have operated, which has often
generated counterproductive public speculation about
what is really going on behind closed doors.
Recognizing that this process was creating significant
negative externalities--especially in Lebanon, where
the rumour mill has been particularly active--Canada
periodically called for a more open approach to at
least some components of the multilaterals, but was
unable to secure broad agreement on the issue.
Looking ahead to the future, the
difficulties of generating tangible RWG-associated
political benefits could lead to a narrowing focus
on the humanitarian aspects of the refugee issue--a
valuable and more "announcable" role, but
less useful as a long-term contribution to resolution
of the issue. It might also lead to the gradual disengagement
of Canada or of the regional parties; or to the slow
death of the multilaterals (already in abeyance at
the time of writing).
This would be unfortunate, since--precisely because
the situation remains "unripe" for fruitful
formal final status negotiations, the RWG does have
two important potential roles to play. The first remains
one of possible prenegotiation, providing the parties
a lower-risk forum within which to explore opponents'
positions, examine trade-offs and explore alternatives,
preestimate potential gains and costs, delimit and
define future agendas, and reconceptualize the issues
at stake (Zartman 1989: 242-250; Stein 1989: 490-491,
499-504). The second role emphasizes some of the broader
components of what Harold Saunders (1996) has called
"circum-negotiation," involving activities
often outside the official setting at the level of
a quasi-official process, at the level of public dialogues,
and even more broadly within civil society. Here,
the RWG (or members of the RWG) can encourage second
track projects that serve the roles of strategic technical
research and scenario-generation/brainstorming. It
might even be possible, at a future point, to integrate
the unofficial and official approaches in what one
US diplomat referred to as "track-one-and-a-half"
initiatives (described elsewhere as parallel informal
negotiation; see Susskind, Chayes & Martinez,
Second track initiatives are, of course, no substitute
for official processes. As suggested earlier in this
article, second track activities are difficult to
coordinate, and potentially of uneven quality. Palestinian
participants in the RWG have also expressed the view
that second track activity focussed on attitudinal
and ideological factors might come at the expense
of attention to nuts-and-bolts policy issues such
as residency rules and family reunification procedures
Tamari 1996a: 27-28). Given the potential that multiple
uncoordinated mediatory initiatives can actually harm
peacemaking (Kriesberg 1996: 343-344), the use of
alternative tracks is not an initiative to be undertaken
Nevertheless, given the current impasse in the broader
Middle East peace process, as well as the specific
obstacles to dealing with the refugee issue, attention
to the broader elements of "circum-negotiation"
seems warranted. These might then help to generate
the kinds of data and ideas that, under more auspicious
circumstances, prenegotiators and negotiators can
borrow, reject or modify--facilitating both the pace
and quality of their discussions, whether now or at
some future point.
 For this reason,
Syria and Lebanon have boycotted the multilaterals.
 The other gavels
are the US and Russia (ACRS), the US (water), the
EU (REDWG), and Japan (environment). The multilateral
steering committee is "chaired" by the cosponsors
of the peace process (US and a largely inactive Russia),
and consists of the "regional parties" (Israel,
Jordan, Palestinians and Egypt, with Syria and Lebanon
not participating); Saudi Arabia (representing the
Gulf Cooperation Council) and Tunisia (representing
the Arab Maghrib Union); the EU, Japan and Canada
(as gavels); and Norway (as chair of the post-Oslo
Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which oversees aid to the
Palestinian Authority). (Peters 1996: 8-15).
The question of whether Palestinians fled or were
driven into exile by Israel is one of the most contentious
issues of all. See, for example Morris (1987) and
In the parlance of the issue, "refugees"
are Palestinians who fled Israeli proper in 1948,
while "displaced persons" are those who
fled the West Bank and Gaza when these areas were
occupied by Israel in 1967. Complicating things further
is the fact that many refugees still live in Palestinian
areas (West Bank and Gaza) although not in their original
homes (in what is now Israel); that many displaced
persons are also refugees; and that many Palestinians
in the diaspora do not neatly fall into either category,
having left the area other than in 1948 or 1967.
The final status negotiations were formally opened
in May 1996, but substantial negotiation was delayed
by the change in Israeli government. Subsequently,
the January 1997 agreement on Israeli redeployment
in Hebron called for the negotiations to begin in
March, although in practice this was delayed by Israeli
settlement activity and a consequent decline in Palestinian-Israeli
US support for Palestinian participation in the RWG
was expressed in Moscow, and again in a February letter
from US Secretary of State James Baker (1992b)
Later in the process, Switzerland was given special
responsibility for the "human dimension"
in the RWG and other working groups.
It had been known some time previous to the meeting
that Hallaj would be a member of the Palestinian delegation,
and that he was a member of the PNC. Israeli objections
were raised, however, only when it was reported in
the Israeli press.
Somewhat confusingly, this was retroactively numbered
RWG IV, after it was decided to number all working
groups from the first organizational meeting in Moscow.
Still more confusing, this rule has been unevenly
applied by the participants.
Specifically, (former Deputy Assistant Secretary for
Near Eastern Affairs) Daniel Kurtzer was seen as most
supportive of the multilaterals, and (Special Middle
East Coordinator) Dennis Ross and (Deputy Assistant
Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs) Toni Verstandig
During his tenure as RWG gavel Perron was Assistant
Deputy Minister (Africa and Middle East) at DFAIT;
Robinson's prior posting had been as Canadian ambassador
to Jordan, and he was appointed Director-General of
an upgraded Middle East Peace Process Coordination
Bureau consisting of two foreign service officers.
Some of the Israelis grew to resent Perron's blunt
style; one, in an unguarded moment, characterized
him as a "liar" and "completely biased".
See Watkins and Passow (1996: 333). To date, however,
influence has largely flowed downwards, from the bilaterals
to the RWG.
These non-public documents have typically included
language to the effect that "The Palestinian
delegation and Arab delegations reiterated their position
that the work of the Group should be built upon existing
UN resolutions pertaining to Palestinian refugees.
Others asserted that we should avoid becoming a political
arena and search for direct and realistic results
to assist Palestinian refugees.... All delegations
stressed that [aid programs] will be implemented without
prejudice to the rights and future status of Palestinian
Some variation of this formula has appeared in virtually
all statements and gavel summaries of the working
Former Canadian ambassador to Israel Norman Spector
(1996a) later complained that some Canadian officials
claimed unwarranted credit for having facilitated
the Oslo channel. However, a senior US official has
suggested to the author that the "political socialization"
undertaken by the multilaterals had played an important
role, and that "it is no coincidence that the
parties that had made breakthroughs in bilateral negotiations
were the same ones that had participated in the multilaterals."
Tamari (1996a: 24), arguing that existing RWG database
activities have avoided political "rocky terrain"
suggests that, as a consequence, more useful activities
are conducted outside any connection to the peace
The Montebello meeting--which was subsequently praised
by the US as achieving the sort of atmosphere that
fostered cooperation within the multilaterals--was
deliberately convened by Canada in a quiet and scenic
hotel, complete with informal sleigh rides and other
activities intended to relax participants and encourage
socialization and mutual "learning".
In fact, the vision paper devoted approximately 3
of 45 paragraphs to future outcomes, which were expressed
in such general terms as hope for "a future without
refugees--or, more specifically, a future in which
no one displaced by the Arab-Israeli conflict (or
their descendants) considers themselves to be a refugee."
Initially the paragraphs of the vision paper had not
been numbered, so as to discourage phrase-by-phrase
haggling over its content and to encourage parties
to see it as a whole rather than objecting to parts.
This was later abandoned, however, as it became increasingly
difficult to hold telephone conversations about a
paper which contained no referential structure.
To encourage a positive US response, the paper was
peppered with quotes from US officials suggesting
a more ambitious and strategic role for the multilaterals.
In order to build on existing agreement, the paper
also made use of language from the Camp David Accords,
the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles,
the Israeli-Jordanian "Common Agenda" of
September 1993, and the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.
In one paragraph, the vision paper actually used a
small amount of consensual language that had emerged
from an Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation
second track project on the multilaterals.
 A revised version of
these comments was later published as chapter 5 of
Tamari (1996a). Later, Palestinian comments on the
"adaptation paper" were also posted on the
internet prior to the intersessional meeting at which
the topic was to be discussed.
 The email listserv
is FOFOGNET ("Friends of the Friends of the Gavel
NET") which originated as the Canadian academic
advisory group to DFAIT, but later expanded to include
almost one hundred experts in North America, Europe
and the Middle East. The website is Palestinian Refugee
ResearchNet, which can be found at http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/mepp/mepp.html.
A list of ongoing scholarly projects on the refugee
issue can be found on PRRN.
 "At the coordination
meeting, we had agreed a date for holding the mandated
intersessional workshop on "Adaptation"
which should have taken place early in June. Unfortunately,
as a result of difficulties experienced by a number
of delegations either in identifying suitable experts
on adaptation to participate in the meeting, or indeed
in being able to participate at all with delegations
from headquarters, we decided to postpone that meeting"
(Robinson 1996a). An intersessional meeting on databases
did go ahead as planned, however.
 The meeting also agreed
to go ahead with an intersessional meeting on public
health in January 1997.
 See, for example, the
relative lack of attention given to these issues in
the chapter on "Highlights of a Strategy: Difficult
Choices for a Palestinian Negotiator," in Tamari
 In the case of the
RWG, a number of (largely Arab) press reports suggested
that the working group was developing plans to resettle
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Iraq, Canada or elsewhere.
The result was often substantial hostility to the
RWG/Canada by NGOs suspicious of its agenda, or by
Lebanese actors fearful of Palestinian "tawtin"
(implantation). Of course, the RWG has never come
close to detailed political discussions/negotiations/plan-making
of this or any similar extent.
 Indeed, there has already
been Canadian press criticism of the lack of Canadian
achievements (Spector 1996a, 1996b; O'Neill 1997).
To date, however, the Canadian Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, has expressed continued support
for the Canadian role. Washington, DC: Institute for
Palestine Studies, 1996.
Alternative Information Center (1997). "Who Will
Stop Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem?" Article
Axworthy, Lloyd [Canadian Foreign Minister] (1996).
"Canada's Role in the Middle East." Globe
and Mail (Toronto), 20 November.
Baker, James [US Secretary of State] (1992). "Opening
Comments." Moscow, 28 January.
Baker, James (1992b). "Letter to Faisal Hussayni
[February 1992]." Journal of Palestine Studies
21, 4: 167.
Beilin, Yossi [Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister] (1993)
"Comments," Tunis, 12 October. Archived
on Israel Information Service at gopher://israel-info.gov.il:70/00/mad/multi/multi.14.
Brynen, Rex (1994). "The Palestinians and Confidence-Building
Measures in the Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Implications
of Statelessness," in Gabriel Ben-Dor and David
Dewitt, editors, Confidence Building Measures in the
Middle East. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.
Brynen, Rex (1996). "Canadian Foreign Policy
Research Capacity on the Middle East," prepared
for Norman Paterson School of International Affairs,
Carleton University, and Department of Foreign Affairs
and International Trade, Ottawa, March.
Brynen, Rex (1997). "Engineering Transitions?
Critical Reflections on Peacebuilding and Political
Science," paper presented to the Institute of
International Relations, University of British Columbia,
Centre for Policy Analysis on Palestine [CPAP] (1992).
Facts and Figures About the Palestinians Information
Paper 1. Washington, DC: Centre for Policy Analysis
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
[DFAIT] (1994). "What is the Refugee Working
Group?" Ottawa: DFAIT, December.
Fisher, Ronald (1989). "Prenegotiation Problem-Solving
Discussions: Enhancing the Potential for Successful
Negotiation." International Journal 44, 2.
Gazit, Shlomo (1995). The Palestinian Refugee Problem.
Tel Aviv: Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies.
George, Alexander (1993). Bridging the Gap: Theory
and Practice in Foreign Policy. Washington, DC: United
States Institute of Peace.
Kriesberg, Louis (1996). "Coordinating Intermediary
Peace Efforts." Negotiation Journal 12, 4.
Masalha, Nur 1992. Expulsion of the Palestinians.
Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.
Morris, Benny (1987). The Birth of the Palestinian
Refugee Problem, 1947-49. Cambridge: Cambridge University
O'Neill, Juliet (1997). "Canadian Refugee Panel
Falls Short of Goals." Ottawa Citizen, 22 March.
Peters, Joel (1996). Pathways to Peace: The Multilateral
Arab-Israeli Peace Talks. London: Royal Institute
for International Affairs, 1996.
Putnam, Robert (1988). "Diplomacy and Domestic
Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games." International
Robinson, Andrew (1996a). "Remarks to the UN
NGO Symposium on the Question of Palestine,"
New York, 25 June. Archived on Palestinian Refugee
ResearchNet at http://prrn.mcgill.ca/prrn/docs/gavelngo.html.
Robinson, Andrew 1996b. "The Refugee Working
Group: Constraints and Challenges of the Situation
in Lebanon," paper delivered to the conference
on "Palestinians in Lebanon," Oxford, September.
Rubin, Jeffrey and Zartman, I. William (1995). "Asymmetrical
Negotiations: Some Survey Results that may Surprise."
Negotiation Journal 11, 4 .
Saunders, Harold (1996). "Prenegotiation and
Circumnegotiation: Arenas of the Peace Process,"
in Chester Crocker, Fen Osler Hampson and Pamela Aal,
editors., Managing Global Chaos: Sources and Responses
to International Conflict. Washington, DC: United
States Institute of Peace.
Shaml (1996). Shaml Newsletter 6. Archived on Palestinian
Refugee ResearchNet at http://prrn.mcgill.ca/prrn/papers/shaml6.html.
Sharon, Ariel (1995). "Arab Peace Ambush: The
refugee problem has become a sword of Damocles poised
over our heads," 20 March. Archived on Likud
USA website at http://www.likudusa.com/articles/sharon2.htm.
Spector, Norman (1996a). "How Canada can Contribute
to the Middle East." Globe and Mail (Toronto),
Stein, Janice (1989). "Getting to the Table:
The Triggers, Stages, Function and Consequences of
Prenegotiation." International Journal 44, 2.
Tamari, Salim (1996a). Palestinian Refugee Negotiations:
From Madrid to Oslo II. Washington, DC: Instutute
for Palestine Studies.
Tamari, Salim (1996b). "Adaptation in the West
Bank and Gaza," April. Archived on Palestinian
Refugee ResearchNet at http://prrn.mcgill.ca/prrn/prresearch.html.
Watkins, Michael and Passow, Samuel (1996). "Analyzing
Linked Systems of Negotiations." Negotiation
Journal 12, 4.
Zartman, I. William (1989). "Prenegotiation:
Phases and Function." International Journal 44,
Zureik, Elia (1996). Palestinian Refugees and the
Peace Process. Washinton, DC: Institute for Palestine