Gaza,(DRAH.ps)-- A conference on the Middle East instigated by the United States and France will be held in Paris on January 15. La Croix outlines the details of the conditions of the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as presented at the end of December by America’s Secretary of State, John Kerry. Here we’re looking at the refugee problem.
Among the propositions presented, John Kerry underlined the need to “provide a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance".
Kerry said this should "include compensation, options, and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, as well as other measures necessary for the complete resolution that is consistent with two states for two peoples”.
He affirmed: " The international community can provide significant support and assistance including in raising money to help ensure the compensation and other needs of the refugees are met."
However, Kerry was careful to add that the international community must act “cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel".
Points of contention
Following the 1948 Israeli-Arab War, 600,000 to 700,000 Arabs living in Palestine were forced to leave their homes and take refuge in neighboring countries. The 1967 war displaced thousands more.
Today there are 4.4 million Palestinian refugees – displaced people, their children, and grand-children – registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
These refugees are reportedly “the oldest in the world”, having been so for almost 60 years. They are not entitled to refugee status as defined by the 1951 international convention. Therefore they can not be treated by High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and their status varies depending on the state in which they reside.
As such, a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon does not have the same rights as in Jordan. A proportion of Palestinian refugees lives in camps; this is the case for two-thirds of those settled in Lebanon.
Israelis intend to prevent the possible return of Palestinian refugees as far as possible in order to maintain the population’s highly Jewish majority, particularly as there are already 1.5 million Arabs in Israel, who are citizens of the Jewish State.
The right for Palestinians to return could be recognized, but without this right being applied within Israeli borders. Israel could accept its responsibility in the context of the current situation but preclude the return of refugees, with some exceptions. Higher numbers could return to the West Bank.
Alain Dieckhoff, Director of the international research center at Sciences-Po Paris, believes that “return to the state of Palestine should be given first priority to refugees in Lebanon”.
This is because conditions are the most precarious there, Dieckhoff believes, and Lebanon's refugees are prevented from working in certain professions. Refugee status in Syria and Jordan is more favorable to integration. In this scenario, emigration of some Palestinians to the Americans and Europe to join other members of the diaspora will have to be considered.
The foundation of this solution comes up against the conviction held by many Israelis that Arabs who left in 1947 did so by choice and were not forced. As such, there is no “responsibility” to recognize.
For Palestinians, should mass return to their homeland be foregone, financial compensation would have to be provided. An international fund collecting contributions from the international community would be responsible for distributing compensation to refugees, wherever they may choose to spend the rest of their lives.
In these circumstances, some Israelis would also like to see the more or less direct expulsion of 500,000 Jews from many Arab countries between 1948 and 1962 taken into account.
They see themselves as equally entitled to claim financial compensation for this. At the conclusion of the process, Palestinians and Arab countries would definitively relinquish the need for a mass return of refugees.