Lebanon and the Peace Process: excerpts on refugees
Source: excerpted from al-Majallah (London),
18-24 February 1996, pp. 20-28. [FBIS] .
by Manar-al-Huda al-Husayni
Beirut - What will happen in Lebanon after peace?
There is no definite answer to this question because
everything depends on the progress made on the
Syrian-Israeli track. However, many people agree
on the issues that will be raised at the negotiation
table between Beirut and Tel Aviv when the time
comes. These issues will shed some light on what
will happen in Lebanon in the future. The four
most significant issues are:
1. The Palestinian presence in Lebanon;
2. The water;
3. The Lebanese resistance and border security;
4. The problem of the command and members of the South Lebanon Army.
Besides these issues and as a result of the coming
peace, the Lebanese will face the question of economic
competition between Lebanon and Israel. A person
who has some expectations regarding the Lebanese-Israeli
negotiations is Karim Baqraduni, deputy leader
of the Phalangist Party. In an interview with AL-MAJALLAH,
Baqraduni said that the issues that will be raised
in the Lebanese-Israeli negotiations can be combined
into three groups:
1. bilateral issues that affect Lebanon and Israel alone;
2. tripartite issues that affect Syria, Lebanon, and Israel;
3. issues for multilateral negotiations.
The third group includes mainly the issues of
water and the Palestinian refugees. Asked whether
Lebanon will pay a price for peace, Baqraduni says
that the question of payment is raised as a general
assumption. It depends on Lebanon's ability to
rally international and regional support so it
will not have to pay any price, pay a limited price,
or pay something and receive something else in
return. Baqraduni says that the absent and the
weak are always the losers in any negotiations.
Baqraduni thinks that if the Lebanese Government
does not act now, it will undoubtedly pay a price.
He thinks that the present government is not preparing
Lebanon to defend itself and is not trying to establish
a web of relations and interests that could provide
an umbrella for its citizens. Baqraduni adds: If
things change, the Lebanese will determine Lebanon's
role in a post-peace era. They will establish a
strategy, which the government will adopt and implement.
The government will also rally all the Lebanese
at home and abroad around it. This would lead to
national agreement and not division, as is the
situation today. The payment of a price depends
on us, Baqraduni says. If we can do what I said,
Lebanon can receive a price, but if we do not agree
on a vision and a strategy and do not achieve national
reconciliation, Lebanon will pay the biggest price.
The question that concerns the Lebanese, while
at the threshold of peace, is what will happen
in Lebanon after peace, considering that the issues
for negotiation between Lebanon and Israel--the
water, the resistance, security, and the Palestinian
refugees -- will be thorny. Observers think that
Lebanon will pay the price of peace by accepting
to settle the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
Ambassador Fu'ad al-Turk, who served as Lebanese
Foreign Ministry secretary general during the Israeli
invasion and supervised the birth of resolution
425, thinks that the multilateral committees, formed
to study the issues of the refugees, the water,
security, and economy, will work out the details
of a new Middle Eastern Order. Al-Turk thinks that
the most important of these issues are the water
and the Palestinian refugees.
The first issue is the resettlement of the Palestinian
refugees. What will be the fate of the Palestinian
refugees? Following the UN partition Resolution
181 on 29 November 1947, the establishment of the
State of Israel, the expulsion of the Palestinian
people from their homeland, and the occupation
of their land and property, the United Nations
established the UN Relief and Works Agency for
Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) on 21 May 1950. Besides
what its name implies, UNRWA tried to merge the
Palestinians in the countries in which they took
refuge. Israel disregarded the many UN resolutions
calling for the return of the Palestinians to their
The United Nations also issued several resolutions
regarding the Palestinians displaced after the
June 1967 war. The most important of these was
UN Security Council Resolution 242 on 22 November
1967, which called for Israel's withdrawal to secure
borders. The paragraph concerning the Palestinian
refugees called for a just settlement of the refugee
problem, without mentioning the nature of this
UN Security Council Resolution 338 of 22 October
1973 called for implementing all parts of Resolution
242. Resolutions 242 and 338 dealt with the Palestinian
issue as a refugee and humanitarian issue and not
as a political issue.
With the start of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations
in Oslo and the conclusion of the Palestinian-Israeli
declaration of principles agreement, which was
signed on 13 September 1993, the Palestinian issue
entered a new stage with regard to the refugees
and displaced Palestinians. The agreement referred
to a settlement based on Resolutions 242 and 338.
However, the fifth article of the agreement noted
that consideration of the refugee issue will be
postponed for three years from the effective date
of the declaration of principles agreement, because
their return demands that the Palestinian Authority
[PA] make plans and policies to encourage the refugees
to return to their homeland. However, it seems
that the PA has been unable to do that.
Therefore, Lebanese and non-Lebanese observers
think that the solution will be to settle them
in the host countries, although this would be far
from a just solution. This opinion confirms what
Israeli Prime Minister Shim'on Peres said in his
book The New Middle East about the rehabilitation
of the refugees in the Arab countries as part of
a regional economic and social plan. Peres also
says that Israel has not agreed to allow the refugees
of 1948 to return, but it has undertaken to solve
the problem of the Palestinians who left the West
Bank in June 1967. This is what was agreed upon
at Camp David and Oslo.
Obviously, the refugee settlement issue has not
been accepted by all the Arab countries concerned.
Regarding the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon,
the Lebanese Government has rejected their settlement
in Lebanon. Ambassador Fu'ad al- Turk says that
the Lebanese Constitution clearly opposes settlement
and partition. Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris
Buwayz says: "The Palestinian presence in Lebanon
will have a profound effect, because:
"First: Lebanon's geographical area is very small
in relation to its population.
"Second: The Lebanese area that can be settled
and exploited, after eliminating the mountains
and deep valleys, is very small.
"Third: The Lebanese sectarian structure is very
delicate. Any imbalance will have a political,
social, economical, and security impact on it.
"Fourth: We think that the situation of the Palestinian
refugees in the existing camps in Lebanon is basically
different from their situation in some Arab countries
where they live, work, and enjoy medical and educational
The Palestinians in Lebanon constitute 10 percent
of the population. They can cause a social and
political burden. Because most of the refugees
are Sunni Muslims, their presence in Lebanon will
affect the sectarian balance. Dr. George Dib, a
political analyst and foreign affairs' adviser
to the late Prime Minister Rashid Karami, says
no one has a prepackaged solution to this problem.
The Palestinian presence in Lebanon was established
in the Camp David agreement and the Oslo Agreement.
The first agreement said that a committee composed
of representatives of Jordan, Palestine, Egypt,
and Israel will be established, and those who wish
to return must submit applications to this committee.
Only those who left after 1967 will be entitled
to submit applications. The committee will make
its decisions unanimously. A provision in the Oslo
Agreement confirms this text. This means that those
who left Palestine before 1967 will be deprived
of their right to return because they cannot submit
applications. The applications of Palestinians
who left after 1967 will be considered and their
applications must be accepted unanimously. This
means that even if all the Arab representatives
approved them, Israel can veto them. Dr. Dib adds
that the committee is currently working on the
level of ambassadors. It is not taking applications
now, because the parties are still trying to decide
who is a refugee and who is not. Dr. Dib thinks
that the confirmation in the Oslo Agreement means
that there is an agreement to settle the Palestinians.
The post-peace era will bring every inch of Lebanese
territory under the control of the Lebanese Government.
If a solution is reached regarding the Palestinians'
presence, it will not provide for their return.
Ambassador al-Turk emphasizes the Lebanese constitution's
provision against settlement and partition. Lebanese
President Ilyas al-Hirawi also emphasized this
point when he told the diplomatic corps that all
the Lebanese people agree on this matter.