January 12, 2001
To Churches for Middle East Peace's E-mail network

Part two of excerpts related to the Palestinian refugee issue as raised in President Clinton's recent proposal.

Khalil Shikaki, a prominent Palestinian political analyst and head of a Ramallah-based think tank, was quoted in the Israeli magazine, The Jerusalem Report, of January 15.  He argued that, unlike Jerusalem, the refugee issue is "more about packaging than substance."  The refugees' "dream of return," he said, does not mean becoming Israeli citizens in a Jewish state in which most of their original villages no longer exist. That he said, would be a painful, even alien experience, and a lot of them realize that.  "But after 50 years, the last thing the refugees want is a slap in the face." we went on. "There must be a reference to U.N. Resolution 194 (that speaks of the refugees' right of return), or an Israeli admission of the principle of the right of return."  Shikaki  doesn't see that as impossible. "Israel can recognize 194 and at the same time give itself certain power on who returns and when," he said.  If the language is along those lines, "it will be hard for the Palestinians to accept, but harder for them to say no."

Here are the excerpts related to refugees from the January 1 document from the Palestinian Negotiating Team regarding the U.S. proposal.  The complete document can be found at the Shared Jerusalem Resource Center at CMEP's Web site www.cmep.org or by clicking here   Remarks from the Palestinian Negotiating Team

The previous message from CMEP to this network was of excerpts from President's Clinton January 7 speech about Palestinian refugee matters in the U.S. proposal.

From: 1 January 2001 Remarks and Questions from the Palestinian Negotiating Team Regarding the United States Proposal

On the issue of Palestinian refugees, driven from their homes as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel, the United States proposed that both sides recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return either to "historic Palestine" or to "their homeland," but added that the agreement should make clear that there is no specific right of return to what is now Israel. Instead, it proposed five possible final homes for the refugees: (1) the State of Palestine; (2) areas in Israel transferred to Palestine in the "land swap"; (3) rehabilitation in the host countries; (4) resettlement in third countries; and (5) admission to Israel. All refugees would have the right to "return" to the State of Palestine; however, rehabilitation in host countries, resettlement in third countries, and admission to Israel all would depend on the policies of those individual countries.

The United States proposal reflects a wholesale adoption of the Israeli position that the implementation of the right of return be subject entirely to Israel's discretion. It is important to recall that Resolution 194, long regarded as the basis for a just settlement of the refugee problem, calls for the return of Palestinian refugees to "their homes," wherever located - not to their "homeland" or to "historic Palestine."

The essence of the right of return is choice: Palestinians should be given the option to choose where they wish to settle, including return to the homes from which they were driven. There is no historical precedent for a people abandoning their fundamental right to return to their homes whether they were forced to leave or fled in fear. We will not be the first people to do so. Recognition of the right of return and the provision of choice to refugees is a pre-requisite for the closure of the conflict.

The Palestinians are prepared to think flexibly and creatively about the mechanisms for implementing the right of return. In many discussions with Israel, mechanisms for implementing this right in such a way so as to end the refugee status and refugee problem, as well as to otherwise accommodate Israeli concerns, have been identified and elaborated in some detail. The United States proposal fails to make reference to any of these advances and refers back to earlier Israeli negotiating positions.

In addition, the United States proposal fails to provide any assurance that refugee' rights to restitution and compensation will be fulfilled.

(end of excerpt from Palestinian Negotiators memo of January 1)