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Return, Resettlement, Repatriation:
The Future of Palestinian Refugees in the Peace Negotiations

Source: FOFOGNET Digest, 22 April 1996

by Salim Tamari, Institute of Jerusalem Studies

Final Status Strategic Studies
Institute for Palestine Studies
Beirut, Washington, and Jerusalem

February 1996

Appendix 2: The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement and Guidelines for Residency of Returning Palestinians
The Oslo 2 Agreement, signed on September 28th, 1995, contains several guidelines for dealing with a number of categories of Palestinians who seek to establish (or reestablish these residencies). Following is a discussion of these guidelines.

I. Gaining Residency in Palestine through the Electoral Law:
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)

This clause permits the admission into residency for all adult Palestinians who have been living recently in the West Bank and Gaza. It is not conditioned on Israeli prior approval as in the items below. The only restriction is for people who are deprived from the right to vote by criminal proceedings (but only for the duration of the sentence, and the mentally handicapped. In all cases the court references is to Palestinian courts and not to Israeli military courts (article k). However it seems that Palestinians residing in Jerusalem without residency papers will not benefit from this clause. To benefit from this clause Palestinians should register before the elections. The paragraphs above do not indicate what will happen to those people wishing to register to vote after elections.

II. Gaining Permanent Residency in Palestine:
The Protocol on Civil Affairs, Annex III, Appendix 1, Article 28(Population Registry and Documentation) states, inter alia

    "[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)

This clause does not contribute any changes to the existing situation, unless it is the intention of the Israeli government to raise the quota on family reunification (currently 2,000 families or 6,000 persons per annum). In fact the terms of the agreement might make it more difficult for categories (b) and (c) to gain residency since their applications have now to go through two sets of bureaucracies (a Palestinian and Israeli one). Nor does the clause improve on the issue of accountability, and transparency for family reunification applicants--as continuously demanded during the negotiations.

III. Children who are currently denied residency
Items 12 and 13 in the same article refer to children:

    "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"

This item constitutes a significant improvement over the current situation. Unlike the previous item (on family reunification for adults) it does not require the prior approval of the Israeli authorities, and seems to be absolute. However it does conflict with the recent definition of the Israeli Civil Administration(1994) which defined children for purposes of family reunification as those under 18, not 16.

IV. Visiting Rights and Work Permits Issued to Palestinians (and others) Living Abroad Wishing to Visit Palestine:

    "Persons from countries not having diplomatic relations with Israel who visit the Gaza Strip and the West Bank shall be required to obtain a special visitor's permit to be issued by the Palestinian side and cleared by Israel. Requests for such permits shall be filed by any relative or acquaintance of the visitor, who is a resident, through the Palestinian side, or by the Palestinian side itself..." [item a, article 28, same annex]

This item registers some improvement over the existing procedures,but final clearance is still in the hands of the Israelis.Visitation rights are no longer confined to the summer months, or to people who are the immediate family members of the inviting Palestinian. As in the current situation, the permit is valid for three months, and can be renewed for a further four months by the Palestinian side without approval of the Israeli side (a notification is sufficient).

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.

V. Lost Residencies ("Latecomers"):
For the first time in twenty eight years a joint committee is setup to deliberate the issue of 'latecomers'. That is Palestinians who lost their residencies in the West Bank and Gaza because they exceeded the three year limit (or one year limit if they left from Tel Aviv airport) imposed by the Israelis for return to the territories. There are currently over 90,000 persons in this category.

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.

Not included in FOFOGNET version. The full published version (with notes) can be ordered from the Institute for Palestine Studies.

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