Palestinian Refugees and the Final Status Negotiations (Issue No.3, Autumn 1999)


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Human Rights organizations in Israel appealed to the High Court in March to order government authorities to issue Palestinian newborns from the eastern part of Jerusalem a temporary identity number. The Israeli Health Ministry and National Insurance Institute have refused to cover health care expenses for Palestinian Jerusalemite newborns until an investigation is carried out to determine if the parents hold Jerusalem ID cards or if they can prove that Jerusalem is their “center of life.”

[For more on unregistered Palestinian children in Jerusalem see Article 74, Issues 16 and 18.]
Source: Ha’aretz (31-3-99)

The first center in Majdal Krum was established in 1992, in response to the increasing engagement of the Palestinian leadership in Israel with Israeli Labor Party politics. Two additional centers were opened later in Yafa and Nazareth. Al-Baqa's major aim is to protect Palestinian identity from the strong cultural and political influence of the Israeli establishment and to work for the design of strategies for the social and political development of the Palestinian community in Israel that do not rely on Israeli state services and the Labor Party. Among the Centers' activities are assistance to Palestinian workers and the study of Palestinian unemployment in Israel (Palestinian Workers' Center, Nazareth); academic and cultural awareness raising activities for mothers and children (Mothers' School, children summer camps); public counseling on issues pertaining to Palestinian property and housing rights; annual collections for the support of Palestinian prisoners' families; and an olive oil project aimed at supporting the Palestinian olive oil production and at protecting Palestinian farmland from confiscation by the Israeli state (marketing, financial aid and volunteer assistance to farmers wishing to plant their land).

Contact: Samya Nasser, Al-Baqa' Center/Majdal Krum, tel. 054-254048.

Amir Makhoul, Itijah
(trans. from al-Sennara 6/8/99)

Two workshops held in July 1999, one hosted by Radio Bethlehem 2000 and the other by the Galilee Center for Social Research in Jaffa, focused on the political activities of the Palestinian minority inside Israel. These two national initiatives have contributed towards raising an important issue on our common agenda, the right of return and struggle against the privatization of absentee property. Our mission is to place this issue at the core of the final status negotiations.


Coping with the Final Status Negotiations:

With the re-opening of the final status negotiations between the PLO and Israel, Palestinian refugees continue to raise their voice in defense of their internationally recognized right of return to their homes and restitution of their property (UN Resolution 194), as well as their right to compensation for material and non-material damage incurred as a result of their massive eviction by Israel in 1948.

Throughout the summer, BADIL Friends Forum, composed of some 30 activists of organizations and initiatives based in West Bank refugee camps, undertook a number of activities among the Palestinian public in general, and refugees in particular, to promote awareness and mobilization for Palestinian refugee rights:

Visits of refugees from West Bank refugee camps (eyewitness of the 48 Nakba, youth and children) to their villages of origin in order to study the past and the present situation of their homes and lands.

"Return is Legal, Possible, and the Only Way to a Just Peace in the Middle East"
Some 500 Palestinian refugees met on two consecutive days with Palestinian researcher Dr. Salman Abu Sitta in order to explore the relevance of his research on the Palestinian right of return for a broad popular movement in defense of Palestinian refugee rights. The two meetings conducted under the headline, "The Return of Palestinian Refugees is Legal, Possible, and the Only Way to a Just Peace in the Middle East", were organized by the BADIL Friends Forum and the Committee for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights/Yafa Cultural Center, in cooperation with the Popular Services Committees of the PLO Department of Refugee Affairs in Deheishe refugee camp/Bethlehem (24-8-99) and Balata refugee camp/Nablus (25-8-99).

"Return is Legal, Possible, and the Only Way to a Just Peace in the Middle East"
Some 500 Palestinian refugees met on two consecutive days with Palestinian researcher Dr. Salman Abu Sitta in order to explore the relevance of his research on the Palestinian right of return for a broad popular movement in defense of Palestinian refugee rights. The two meetings conducted under the headline, "The Return of Palestinian Refugees is Legal, Possible, and the Only Way to a Just Peace in the Middle East", were organized by the BADIL Friends Forum and the Committee for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights/Yafa Cultural Center, in cooperation with the Popular Services Committees of the PLO Department of Refugee Affairs in Deheishe refugee camp/Bethlehem (24-8-99) and Balata refugee camp/Nablus (25-8-99).

International Workshop on Compensation and Palestinian Refugees

In the second of a series of "track-two diplomacy" workshops on Palestinian refugees since 1997, Palestinians, Israelis, international experts, and government officials met in Canada in mid-July to discuss compensation as one component of a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian refugee issue. The workshops, sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Research and Development and the Palestinian Refugee ResearchNet, aim to foster a "just, lasting and negotiated solution" of the Palestinian refugee issue through research and dialogue.

Where to this Time??

I am sick and tired of moving. The fear of getting attached to friends clutches at my heart. I'm so terrified at getting attached to places. From Shatila to Mazraa to Ouzai to Shatila to Raousheh, then back to Shatila, and from there where to?

I was born in Shatila a year before the camps' war broke out. My father and sister were killed in that war, while I, my brother, and my other sister moved to Mazraa to live in a building inhabited by displaced Lebanese and Palestinian.I spent my early childhood in a one-room Mazraa house. Our house in Shatila did not mean anything to me for I had left it at a very young age, and before getting attached to it. Maybe because I was too young to realize the concept of "place" back then.

Ibrahim Tawfeq Mattar
Date of birth: 6/12/1951
Deheishe Refugee Camp

Al-Majdal was a Canaanite city on the Palestinian coast, 25-km from Gaza and was called "Majdal Jad" after the Canaanite God of Luck. The city had a unique nice coastal climate and a beautiful vast landscape filled with oranges, grapes, and vegetable gardens. It was famous for its textile industry (i.e. student uniforms, bed covers, etc.) which distinguished the people of al-Majdal from all other neighboring Palestinian cities. My father was one of those textile workers, even for years long after the exile.

I am still proud of being from al-Majdal, and I used to follow the news about its people all over the world. I still remember those first days, when I was just a child of four-years. I was living in a one-room home just near the Haram al-Sharif in Hebron. I was always asking my mother how we came to live here? Where we are from? And why we do we live in these bad conditions compared to our neighbors?

. Israeli Interior Ministry Corrects its Data on Jerusalem ID Card Confiscation

Based on information provided by the Israeli Interior Ministry in Jerusalem to Ha'aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the Ministry has corrected its computer records of ID card confiscations from Palestinian Jerusalemites for the period 1995 - 1999.

The new and corrected official Israeli figures are:




# of ID card confiscations








788 (unchanged)

1999 (Jan - Apr)


Total (revised)


(i.e. approximately 11,248 directly Palestinians directly affected by the policy of Jerusalem ID card confiscation).



For most of the years, the corrected figures differ only slightly from those published earlier. The only significant difference appears in regards to the year of 1997, for which the Ministry now reports 1067 ID card confiscations, compared to only 606 cases reported previously.

2. ID Card Confiscation in the Israeli Supreme Court: Follow-up

On 22 April 1999, the Israeli Supreme Court held a first hearing for a public petition, assembled by five Israeli human rights organizations, against the revocation of residency rights from Palestinian Jerusalemites. The hearing was accompanied by a series of local and international lobbying and protest activities organized by 25 Palestinian and Israeli NGOs in the framework of a Campaign to End ID Card Confiscation. At the end of this Supreme Court hearing, the judges ruled that the State was to provide a detailed (case based) explanation of the criteria used to determine whether a person's permanent resident status in Jerusalem had expired, both for the period prior to the current policy (sample years 1989 and 1991) and for the period starting with 1996 (the first year of massive ID card confiscations). Both parties were asked to categorize and pair-up their arguments until August 1999. (For more details on the first hearing see: al majdal/2, June 99)

By mid-September 1999, the petitioners had not received the State's report. Also a request for a temporary injunction order against ID card confiscation, submitted to the Supreme Court by the petitioners soon after the April hearing, has - as of yet - remained unanswered.

Palestinian Land Claims to Allenby Barracks

In response to questions concerning the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, U.S. Embassy spokesperson Larry Schwartz stated that, "there are no plans to go forward at this time". Schwartz noted, however, that once a final resolution is found, the U.S. government would build on land in Jerusalem allocated to it by Israel. As the current land allocated to the U.S. on the former Allenby Barracks is Palestinian refugee property, Schwartz re-iterated that all outstanding property claims of that nature should also be resolved in the final status. The transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was mandated by a 1995 Congressional bill (see al-majdal, issue no. 2).

The property currently designated for the U.S. Embassy was confiscated by the Israeli government says Hasib Nashashibi, whose family owned property in that area. According to Palestinian Conciliation Committee maps and Hasib's own family documents, the property of the Allenby Barracks was divided among family waqf, public waqf and the Egyptian Coptic Church. In the war of 1948 the land was depopulated and transferred to the Israeli Custodian of Absentees' Property.

According to Nashashibi, the northern portion of land, 56 dunums, is owned by the Khalidi, Nashashibi, Abu Saud, Saiidi, and Burjuan families all of whom entrusted their property to the Waqf. As late as 1952 the High Commissioner of the British Mandate gave Akram Khalidi 53 Palestinian Pounds as payment for the rent owed for use of this property in 1951. This was the last payment. The southern portion of land, which is now divided by a road that leads to the Israeli area of Armon HaNatziv, is a combination of family waqf and privately owned property of the Dijani's and several other families. Thirty-three dunums are still owned by the British Government. A document received by Nashashibi from the British Council states that the land has never been sold.

Although the conclusion of final status talks was set for September of 2000, Palestinian claims for their property and the right to return will continue long after the dates set in the recent Sharm al-Sheikh agreement. As recently expressed in the international response to the forced population transfers of East Timor and Kosova, the right to property and the right of return has been repeatedly consecrated in international law and practice. Despite the confidence of the U.S. Congress to concur with the Israeli allocation of property, the U.S. will have to be wary of where it chooses to make its bed.

Palestinians continue to be displaced and marginalized by Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing throughout the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem. The new Labor government has continued the policies of ID card confiscation, home demolition, settlement construction, and land confiscation. Under the new government, the Israeli Ministry of Housing and Construction has issued tenders for the construction of 2,594 housing units in West Bank settlements. (Ha'aretz, 27/9/99). The pace of settlement construction in the first three months of the Barak administration has outpaced the rate of settlement construction under the previous Netanyahu government. In the south of the West Bank, orders were issued for the confiscation of 618 dunums (4 dunums=1 acre) of land belonging to Izna village and 803 dunums from nearby Beit Awla. (AFP, 26/9/99). According to reports published in al-Ayyam (20/9/99) an additional 2,250 dunums will be confiscated for a new 7.5 km settler bypass road around Bethlehem and Beit Sahour with additional land for a second bypass road some 850 meters long. The report also noted that some 10,000 dunums were confiscated, 400 fruit trees uprooted and 50 homes demolished in the north of the West Bank since the beginning of 1999. An additional 4,500 dunums of Bethlehem land are targeted for annexation to Jerusalem under plans for the expansion of the Bethlehem checkpoint.

As the Bethlehem Municipality rushes to complete plans to make the Bethlehem 2000 Project a success, Israel has completed and begun to implement alternative plans for a new "Erez (Gaza) style" checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, ostensibly to facilitate the influx of tourists expected for the celebrations in 2000. According to an Israeli map obtained from the Palestinian District Coordinating Liaison Office (DCO) in Bethlehem, the plan entails the conversion of the existing checkpoint, near the Vatican's Tantur Ecumenical Institute (Gilo settlement junction), into a permanent checkpoint to be used exclusively by tourists, Jewish settlers, and VIPs. A parallel road for Palestinians, 150 to 200 meters east of the Hebron Road, will be opened, complete with a 700 car parking lot and a 650 meter" Pedestrian Road" leading to the new "Pedestrian Terminal," similar to the one used in Gaza.

Selected issues based on an interview with Ghazi Gheith, legal advisor to the PA Interior Ministry in Bethlehem

Even in the Homeland: Palestinians - a people without proper personal documents:

Ignorance and negligence in regards to registration of what was perceived as petty details by the foreign rulers of the Palestinian people and their bureaucracies have resulted in a situation where thousands of Palestinian inhabitants in the PA areas hold personal documents with misspelled or completely wrong names and false birth dates. Mistakes in the registration of personal data can be traced back to the time of the British Mandate. Most of the mistakes, however, occurred during the 28 years of Israeli military occupation, under which indifference to the Palestinian individual was the norm. Missing birth certificates are common, others are holding proper birth certificates, but the clerks of the military occupation forgot to enter the data into the computerized database.

Today, when personal documents of the Palestinian population living in the PA areas are issued via a complex procedure involving both the PA and the Israeli military government, the computerized population register held by Israel is the crucial tool which determines a person's name, birth date, and even legal existence. Thus thousands of people fill in official forms and requests by deliberately misspelling their names, stating their father's name as Ahmad (although it is Amjad), and putting a birth date which is not theirs - just in order to avoid a bureaucratic nightmare with the Israeli authorities. Fixing the personal documents of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and obtaining birth certificates for those who never had one, represents a considerable part of the daily work of the Palestinian Interior Ministry today. Any major change in the old documents requires the approval of a Palestinian court as well as notification of and approval by the Israeli authorities.

Family Reunification

In 1999, the Israeli family reunification quota was raised from 2,000 to 3,000 annually (1,800 for the West Bank; 1,200 for the Gaza Strip). For a people characterized by exile and dispersion, however, the quota remains way below the need. Delays in the processing of applications by the Israelis - a result of the Israeli habit of using the family reunification procedure as a tool for exerting political pressure on the PA - is the main cause for the long waiting periods experienced by applicants. Newly-wed Palestinian couples, fiancées and spouses-in-spe are expected to wait three to six years until they can finally live together legally.

According to the current quota system, the Bethlehem district is entitled to some 200 family reunifications annually. In early 1998, the Ministry submitted a package of all applications collected until 31 December 1997 (some 800 cases). By September 1999, Israel had responded to 150 of these cases, i.e. less than a one-year's quota. Moreover, Israel has not yet completed the handling of applications submitted before 1995; 50 responses to such cases were recently received by the Bethlehem Ministry. The Ministry abstained from submitting new applications (1998, 1999), in order to give priority to the numerous applications for "internal family reunification" (registration of previously unregistered residents and registration of children of returnees above the age of 16). Referring to the common public complaint about the role of wasta (bribes, connections) in changing the ranking of applications to be submitted to the Israeli side, the legal advisor of the Bethlehem Ministry emphasized that all cases are handled according to the date of application and transferred in this order to the CAC (Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee) in Ramallah.

Visit Permits

The shortage of visit permits remains dramatic. During the months of summer 1999, the Bethlehem ministry collected some 2,000 applications of people who wished to obtain permits for their relatives abroad. Only 120 permits monthly were issued. Israel has developed an extremely restrictive policy in regards to visit permits all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip: no more than 120 permits per month to each district, no visit permits to persons below the age of 35, no permits - for security reasons - to any person born in Iraq, Libya, and Syria. People who enter the country on a visit permit and overstay the permitted period (maximum 7 months) are fined and not permitted re-entry for three to four years. This policy results in extremely inhumane conditions, with fiancées and wives having to leave behind their husbands and children, not knowing when they will be permitted to come back.

Jerusalem ID Card Confiscations - the other side of the coin

A considerable number of Palestinian Jerusalemites, unable to live in the city for economic reasons, or due to fact that part of their family was denied a blue Jerusalem ID card by the Israeli occupation, have made a home in the nearby Bethlehem district. Many of them have become victims of the Israeli policy of ID card confiscation from Palestinian Jerusalemites living outside the Israeli-defined city borders. The Palestinian Interior Ministry has adopted a policy of not accepting applications for a green West Bank ID card by Palestinian Jerusalemites whose ID card was confiscated. While this decision is to be supported politically, it creates tremendous and yet unresolved hardships for all those who remain without a valid personal document required for travel, university registration, and legal transactions.

Changing one's Address from Gaza to West Bank remains an almost impossible enterprise even in the seventh year of partial Palestinian self-rule.
Thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank with ID cards issued in the Gaza Strip are forced to do so "illegally", simply because the Israeli occupation authorities refuse to approve requests for address changes. Among those most strongly effected are PA personnel stationed in the West Bank who originally entered the country via the Gaza Strip, Gaza students at West Bank universities, as well as numerous individuals married or working in the West Bank. The Israeli refusal of address changes between Gaza and the West Bank represents a gross violation of the principle of territorial integrity of the areas handed over to the Palestinian Authority, a principle, which was established in the Oslo Accords.

al majdal is named after one of the Palestinian cities in the south of Palestine, home to some 11,000 Palestinian women, men, youth, and children, which was brought to a sudden end by the forceful superimposure of the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Unlike many other towns and villages in Palestine, not all of the people of Majdal Jad, as it was known, had vacated their town during the war of 1948. More than 1,500 residents remained steadfast until 1950, when they were finally evicted by a combination of Israeli military force and bureaucratic measures reminiscent of the current Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing applied against the Palestinian inhabitants in the eastern areas of occupied Jerusalem, in particular, and against Palestinians remaining in the area of historic Palestine. Thus, Palestinians of Majdal Jad were turned into refugees, most of them finding shelter in the nearby Gaza Strip. Like other Palestinian refugees, they have not disappeared. They have remained close to their homes and lands. Of old age now, they, their children and grandchildren have built new hopes and dreams based on the international recognition of their right of return, and struggled for the day when they would live a free citizens in al-Majdal/Ashkelon.

In this issue of al majdal we examine the positions and concerns of Palestinian refugees with the restarting of the final status negotiations. al majdal also asks the PLO Department for Refugee Affairs about the Palestinian negotiation strategy in the final status talks. Based on a recent field visit, we also look at the issue of Palestinian refugees inside Israel, commonly known as the internally displaced. After more than fifty years as citizens of Israel, internally displaced Palestinians continue to struggle for the right to return to their lands and homes. With the advent of the final status talks, the internally displaced are calling for a unified Palestinian position to implement the right of return and restitution for Palestinian refugee properties taken over by the Israeli government for the exclusive use of the Jewish community in Israel. al majdal also takes a look at continuing policies of ethnic cleansing and eviction in the Jerusalem area. Since the last issue of the magazine, new plans have come to light for the conversion of the existing Bethlehem/Jerusalem checkpoint into an Erez (Gaza) style checkpoint. al majdal examines the plan and the implications of the new checkpoint. Finally, we bring to you another set of refugee voices from children in Lebanon writing about their experiences as refugees and an oral history account of eviction from Majdal Jad.

As the PLO/PA prepares its teams and strategy for the final status negotiations, the Palestinian public as well as close observers remain unable to answer the crucial questions, such as: What are they up to? Who will be the central actors in the negotiations? The conduct of Palestinian negotiators in the interim status negotiations, the current lack of clarity about the composition of the final status teams, and contradictory messages concerning the strategic guidelines for the negotiations all provide ample reason for Palestinian public concern and criticism. The following major points require urgent clarification:

Organize Public Debates with the Palestinian Negotiators!

Our Palestinian public, especially refugees, have the right to know the position our political leadership which may determine the fate of our future generations. Therefore, we, the BADIL Friends Forum, composed of refugees active in some 30 organizations and initiatives in the West Bank refugee camps, call upon our local, regional, and international partners to:

1. Organize public debates on the Palestinian position in the final status negotiations. Palestinian officials and experts must be invited to clarify and discuss the Palestinian negotiation strategy. They must hear the opinion and demands of the Palestinian refugees, and they must know that we will insist in the implementation of our rights as established by international law and UN Resolutions, especially the right to return to our homes and property. Лучшие проекты домов Z500 - сайт

2. Intensify the efforts towards the formation of an independent refugee movement in Palestine and in exile. Only such a movement, based on international law and principles can impose press on the Palestinian negotiators, on Israel and the international community, and safeguard the legitimacy of Palestinian refugee right irrespective of the outcome of the final status negotiations.


Interview with Daoud Barakat,
Negotiations Coordinator for the Refugee Issue/Deputy Head of the PLO Department for Refugee Affairs, 21-9-99

BADIL: The opening ceremony of the final status negotiations took place on 13 September 1999, the sixth anniversary of the Oslo Accords. In fact, this was the second opening ceremony, after the first attempt, opened in May 1996, and led nowhere. According to reports in the Israeli press, the talks have been delayed due to the Jewish holidays in September, the need to appoint a new legal advisor to the Israeli delegation, and there is talk about an Israeli-Palestinian controversy about the site of the final status talks. So what is the situation? When will the actual negotiations start?

Daoud Barakat: According to the Wye Agreement and the recent Sharm al-Sheikh Memorandum between the two sides, final status negotiations are to begin immediately. Until today, the Palestinian side has not received any information from the Israeli delegation. So there is no date fixed yet and the venue and the agenda are still unknown.

Q. It appears that the Israelis are not in a hurry?

A. No, I believe that they are eager to start the negotiations and to reach a framework agreement by February 2000. They want to meet in order to explore the Palestinian position and to see what is possible.

Q. What about the PLO and the Palestinian delegation? Are you ready to start?

A. The Palestinian negotiation team is ready. It is composed of a five-member High Commission, which is to supervise the final status negotiations. Two or three additional members may eventually join the High Commission, if other Palestinian factions, PFLP, DFLP, and the People's Party, are ready to share in the process. The actual negotiations on the various final status issues, Jerusalem, refugees, sovereignty and borders, and settlements, will be conducted by sub-teams composed of politicians and experts.

Q. So the sub-team that will negotiate on the refugee question has already been formed?

A. Yes, there are names, but the final composition is not yet official.

Q. Now let's talk about the major new element introduced to the mechanism of the final status talks by the recent Wye/Sharm al-Sheikh Memorandum: the framework agreement to be achieved by February 2000. What exactly is a framework agreement? What could it look like?

A. The idea of the framework agreement was initially proposed by the Israeli side. We accepted it, because both sides feel that we cannot start negotiations on the final status issues without having a principled agreement on what is included and how the issues will be raised. What such a framework agreement could look like concretely is, of course, unknown. It is currently under discussion between the Palestinian negotiators. As we see it, there are two possibilities: a) a framework agreement presenting a vision of the future Palestinian-Israeli relations, or b) a kind of declaration of principles about how the final status issues are to be addressed. But of course, this is how we discuss things among us. We haven't received any indication about how the Israeli side intends to deal with this matter.

Q. Another point - also raised in the press by various Israeli politicians - is the idea of trying to achieve a framework agreement, or a final status agreement, even if agreement is not reached on all the issues. Peres, for example, proposed to delay talks about the most difficult issues, Jerusalem and the refugee question, and to try to reach an agreement first on the easier issues. What do you think about this proposal?

A. My opinion is that all the issues of the final status negotiations are difficult. I don't feel that the issues of water resources or borders are easy questions. It doesn't make sense to think that any of them is an easy question.

Q. Let's move on to the Palestinian negotiation strategy. What has been prepared and what can you tell us about how the Palestinian delegation will open the final status negotiations?

A. As a first step, the Palestinian delegation will present to the Israelis our principles underlying any future solution of the historical conflict. In regards to the refugee issue, we will state clearly that there will be no peace agreement between the PLO and Israel, unless an agreement for a just solution of the refugee question is achieved. The term "just solution" will be defined as the Israeli acceptance of the Palestinian refugees' right of return as outlined in UN Resolution 194. Once agreement is achieved on the principles, the Palestinian delegation will be ready to discuss modalities regarding implementation. The implementation of these principles will require a lot of work, many studies and plans, experts, time tables, assistance by international organizations, etc. After all, we are dealing with a historical conflict, and implementation of any settlement may take a long time.

Q. Given the situation that an Israeli rejection of the principles presented by the Palestinian delegation is very likely, what is the scenario for dealing with a situation where final status negotiations enter a deadlock at a very early stage?

A. There will be no Palestinian scenario dealing with Israeli rejections of principles. Negotiation didn't start. We are going to the negotiation table with open minds, still our hopes are that the Israelis will conduct themselves positively regarding those different issues.

Q. Ever since the 1991 Madrid Conference and throughout the Oslo process, all sides involved, the United States, Europe, Israel, Arab states and the PLO, have been extremely interested in the success of these negotiations. There will be strong international pressure to ensure that the final status negotiations won't end in failure. Aren't you afraid, that the main target of this pressure will be the Palestinian side, as the weakest side in the formula? How will the Palestinian delegation and the PLO deal with a situation where it will be pressured to make concessions on its principles?

A. I don't think that it will be so easy to pressure the Palestinian delegation into making concessions on the principled issues. We speak about a historical conflict here, and all sides are familiar with the parameters of the conflict, even the Israelis. After all, the agreed-upon legal basis for the historical settlement is UN Resolution 242 and 338. Israel accepted the implementation of these resolutions with Egypt and Jordan and is going to do so with Syria and Lebanon. The Palestinians are no less than any other country.

Q. You just mentioned UN Resolutions 242 and 338 as the being the basis for the final status agreement. How does UN Resolution 194 and the Palestinian refugees' right of return fit into this framework? Many Palestinian critiques, in particular refugees, understand that this legal framework of the Oslo negotiations actually excludes UN Resolution 194 and the right of return.

A. UN Security Council Resolution 242 of 22 November 1967 calls for the Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories it occupied in the 1967 war. The same UN Resolution includes a paragraph, [2(b)], which calls for "a just solution of the Palestinian refugee question". Now, since UN Resolution 242 is part of an organic body of international law and UN resolutions and not an isolated decision, the definition of what is considered "a just solution for the Palestinian refugee question" here is clear. It is the earlier UN Resolution 194, i.e. the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and property, if they wish to do so and are ready to live in peace with their neighbors. And their right to receive compensation in case they do not want to return home, as well as compensation for damage caused to them and their property. UN Resolution 194 is an integral part of UN Resolution 242. At one of our recent seminars, John Quigley, a distinguished US expert in international law, gave us a profound legal expertise on this issue. I have no doubt that Israeli legal experts will reach the same conclusion once they study the subject. Moreover and as a matter of fact, Israel has never challenged the validity of UN Resolution 194. Israel only argues that its implementation is no longer possible, for lack of space, etc. I understand the fears of the Palestinian people, and refugees in particular, because not every refugee is an expert in international law. This is why I think that once final status negotiations start, there should be a broad and clear Palestinian public information campaign explaining the Palestinian negotiation positions and strategy. There should be press conferences, public meetings, and brochures, because refugees have the right to know and understand, and because the Palestinian negotiators will need public support.

Q. Since the Palestinian public information campaign has not yet started, there are many fears, stories, and rumors about secret concessions already being made by the Palestinian leadership and about agreements being signed behind closed doors. There is, for example, the talk about a new resettlement scheme for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon according to which they should receive Palestinian passports in exchange for the Lebanese government granting them permanent residency in Lebanon. Talks about this proposal were reported recently by al-Bayan newspaper. lesbian gay movies collection

A. This is total nonsense. A large number of our 4.5 million UNRWA registered and unregistered refugees have obtained citizenship and a passport of one of the countries of exile. Citizenship and passports have nothing to do with the identity and the status of Palestinian refugees - there is no connection. Otherwise we would have to forget about all our refugees in, let's say, Germany, and they would have to forget about their rights and properties in their homeland. Of course, the Palestinian state, once established, will also offer Palestinian passports to all the refugees in exile. This does not mean that their rights as refugees will be surrendered.

Q. There are also rumors about a proposal of partial refugee return, i.e. the return of a certain group of refugees to a designated area in Israel. The example raised was the return of Gaza refugees to the Naqab…

A. There will always be Palestinian researchers who make all kinds of proposals, nobody can prevent them from doing so. This does not mean that this represents the Palestinian negotiation position.

Q. Also the rumor about secret resettlement schemes with the Arab Gulf States and Iraq, where US diplomats proposed to lift the boycott in exchange for an Iraqi agreement to accept a certain number of Palestinian refugees from Lebanon…

A. These resettlement schemes are old-new ideas. The latest version was presented by Donna Arzt, in a research commissioned by an official US body [Council on Foreign Relations]. She proposes that Palestinian refugees should be absorbed according to a quota system in various countries. Canada is mentioned there, also Iraq. However, all of this is pure intellectual exercise. According to my knowledge, no such proposals have been raised to Iraqi officials, and in the Gulf states they don't want to have Palestinians anyway. And then, of course, such a scheme would require the support and participation of the Palestinian side, which will not happen.

Q. And what about President Arafat's speech to the Arab League and his interview reported by an-Nahar, in which he talked about the Palestinian refugees' right of return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip?

A. Yes, I am aware of it. He spoke of the refugees' right to return to Palestine, he never uses the term West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestine for him means the geographical and historical homeland. You may have heard about a study done by the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics. It published a projection of Palestine in the year 2005. The study mentions that the Bureau of Statistics expects by then to be dealing with 500,000 Palestinian returnees to the state of Palestine who are not necessarily refugees. They are all kinds of people who come to live in the Palestinian state. However, Ha'aretz journalist Danny Rubinstein immediately picked up this number and wrote an article on how this represents a realistic expectation for refugee return. This is how rumors are created. What we really need is more trust between our people and the negotiators.

Q. You surely know that there are Palestinian politicians, Ministers of the PA, who give statements to the Israeli and international press suggesting a Palestinian readiness for concessions on the refugees' right of return. Don't you think that they too are a source of rumors among the public?

A. Of course there are such Palestinians who give their opinion. We have no means to oblige them. We can only appeal to them not to undermine our negotiating position. But I suggest we handle this as the Israelis do. We should say that, yes, of course, there are different opinions, everybody can say what s/he thinks, but this does not reflect our official position.

Q. Given the fears and rumors among the Palestinian public, how would you define the role of Palestinian refugees, their organizations and institutions, in this era?

A. I would like to see them organizing information campaigns, public meetings, protest activities, and petitions in which they clearly state their demands. This in order to exert pressure on the Israeli public opinion, also on international public opinion and on the Palestinian negotiators. We are very much in need of this role.

Q. And how would you describe the role and tasks of all those people and organizations on the international level, that would like to help protect
the right of return of the Palestinian refugees? What should be, from now on, the priorities of the international solidarity movement with the Palestinian people in general, and refugees in particular?

A. All of these individuals and organizations should make clear to their communities that this is the time of truth; that what is ahead of us is an effort to reach an agreement, which will lead to the settlement of a historic conflict. They should inform their public about past and present facts and legal parameters of the Palestinian refugee question. Also the international standards for resolving refugee problems like ours should be emphasized. After all, such standards exist, and the Palestinian refugee question is not so different from other, current refugee problems, in which the international community has interfered with a strong position. Take only the example of Kosova, and now East Timor. There refugees have been used to justify even military interventions. So why the international community should not take a stand also on the Palestinian refugee question?

Q. You mean to say that you are not completely pessimistic about the outcome of the final status negotiations?

A. I mean to say that I don't know whether Israel will accept a solution which we consider just and fair, but I know that the Palestinians will have to work hard in order to try to achieve this.

Daoud Barakat was born in western Jerusalem in 1942. He served with the PLO between 1972 and 1996 in Switzerland, Austria, and most recently as Palestinian Ambassador to Russia. He is currently living in Ramallah.

Conducted by the PA Committee for Information Service in summer 1999 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (total number of questionnaires: 1080; 560-West Bank, 520-Gaza; refugee participation: 44.6% in the West Bank, 89.9% in Gaza)

Do you consider that the international community has a comprehensive and clear plan for the solution of the Palestinian refugee question?

Yes          17.7%
No            82.3%

In your opinion, what was the reason for the postponement of the refugee question to the final status negotiations?

Complexity and Sensitivity                   19.6%
Israeli deal to terminate the issue          60.6%
Specific circumstances of the negotiations
At that time (Oslo negotiations) did not give
Priority to refugee issue                        15.5%
Other                                                    4.3%

Internally Displaced Palestinians and Unrecognized Communities in the Territory of the Israeli State

Report based on meetings conducted by BADIL with the National Committee for the Internally Displaced, the Association of the Forty, Raja' Ighbariyeh (former secretary of the Committee for the Defense of Arab Lands), and al Baqa' Center/Majdal Krum (August 5-7, 1999)


Facts & Figures
Internally Displaced Palestinians registered by UNRWA (May1950) 46,000*
Palestinians internally displaced 1999 200-250,000 (est.)
Percent of total number of refugees** 1999 5.0%