Throughout decades of bitter conflict between Israel and the PLO, the question of Palestinian refugees was given paramount significance by Palestinian officials. It was also the subject of numerous resolutions taken by the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. This sensitive issue implies three basic elements - the right to self determination, the right to self rule, and the right of return, ensuring the legitimate rights for over 2.5 million Palestinian refugees are not violated.
While the P.L.O and the Palestinian Authority (PA) are currently engaged in direct negotiations with the Israeli government to implement the interim stage of the Oslo Accords signed in Washington on Sept. 13, 1993, there are over 2.5 million Palestinian refugees waiting anxiously the start of the final stage of negotiations. The final stage is anticipated to tackle a variety of outstanding issues including the refugee problem, Jerusalem, settlements, and the final frontiers. This should be in parallel and in conformity with the Declaration of Principles, in particular to article (5) regarding the interim period and permanent status negotiations. According to article (5), item (3) states, “It is mutually understood that these negotiations will cover pending issues including Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, frontiers, bilateral relations, cooperation, and other issues of mutual interest”. Simultaneously, paragraph (2) of the aforementioned article states, “Negotiations of permanent status is scheduled to commence between the government of Israel and representatives of the Palestinian people as soon as possible but not exceeding the beginning of the third year of the interim period”.
The security council and the United Nations General Assembly issued a series of resolutions concerning the issue of the Palestinian refugees reiterating their right of return and to equitable compensation. In view of a report submitted to the General Assembly in 1947 by two UN envoys, Count Barnadot and Ralph Panch, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 194, which permits all Palestinian refugees willing to return and live in peace and harmony with their neighbors to do so as soon as possible. It also called for compensating those who prefer to stay abroad. Although these resolutions were explicit, successive Israeli governments didn’t abide by its provisions which were accepted by the P.L.O The successive Israeli governments resorted to argument and procrastination by linking the resolution of this issue with a comprehensive peace settlement considering it as an inseparable part of solving the question of the Jewish immigrants, who voluntarily left their native homeland.
Overwhelmed by the misleading information propagated by the Israeli authorities before initiating the final status negotiations with the Palestinians, the Press Office at the Palestinian Ministry of Information has prepared this report in order to disclose all facts related to the refugee issue since 1948. The report also investigates the conditions of over 2.5 million Palestinian refugees, and the impact it has had over the various Arab- Israeli peace tracks.