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The Refugees' Issues are on the Israeli National Security Agenda
By: Moatasem Hamadeh
August 25, 2017

A semi-integrated Israeli plan as an alternative to the right of return to homes and properties.

Contrary to claims which say that Tel Aviv does not pay attention to the issue of Palestinian refugees, and it does not see itself as interested in solving this issue, and it's an issue that is related only to Palestinians and Arabs, the facts and documents confirm the contrary, and emphasize that this issue is one of the most important issues, on the agenda of the «Israeli National Security Research Institute», and that the institute has assigned the case to a team of researchers, whose task is only to follow up everything that is related to this subject, which is considered by Israel to be as a stalemate, and one of the very complex files that will be discussed by the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators, and the international community, when searching for a solution for the issue.

Thus, Israel's behavior as well as the institute studies on this issue, confirm that there is a significant difference between Israel's refusal to recognize its political, historical and moral responsibility for the birth of the Palestinian refugees' issue, and its interest in this issue and the development of scenarios that Tel Aviv believes to be alternative to the right of return to homes and property for the Palestinian refugees.

The most important results of the studies presented to the Netanyahu government, is that it is not worthy any more to depend on any role for Canada, Europe, Australia, or the United States nor others to absorb millions of Palestinian refugees, especially after the influx of refugees from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa, and other Asian countries (Afghanistan) to these countries, so that their ability to absorb what was supposed from Palestinian refugees, within the framework of a settlements of the permanent solution between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

In its scenarios, the Institute also attempts to conclude that the drop in world oil prices has also played a significant role in the possibility that Gulf States which have low-population will receive thousands of Palestinian refugees, especially after the financial reserves of these countries have declined, also some of these countries are having a financial deficit in the budget, what makes them asking for loans, from the international institutions, or from the local banks.

The scenario which is advocated by the Institute, in its recent studies, is the scenario that Israel could implement, which is to open the door for the Palestinian refugees to return to the areas of the Palestinian Authority. This return should be limited to refugees in Jordan (to those who want), Lebanon and Syria. The Institute believes that priority should be given to those in Syria (due to the difficult situation), and to Lebanon (in the light of its sectarian structure and the misery situation in camps).

Hence, the Institute calls to develop the "economic solution" which is advocated by Netanyahu, to provide infrastructure to receive thousands of refugees in the PA areas such like (schools, hospitals, electricity, water, jobs etc.), beside the construction of new cities instead of camps, and the construction of roads and the provision of transport and other means all that to seduce and attract refugees to return. This, according to the Institute, dictates on Israel to play a role in providing the required funding for such projects by convincing the friendly countries, that such a solution and its requirements would provide security and stability in the region and safeguard the interest’s major countries. And that overcrowding, in the Palestinian areas, without providing the elements of a comfortable life, would create an atmosphere of social tensions which affect not only the Palestinian Authority but also Israel and the countries in the region, especially if the refugees felt that they moved from a miserable situation to worse one, thus instead of having a solution to close the right of return file, there will be a new introduction to open it again, more seriously, and more dangerous to Israel, after refugees would have been moved to new areas, which are not far from their villages and towns more than few kilometers away.

There is no doubt, that the institute understands very well the importance of refugees' issue, as it is the center of the whole Palestinian cause and that the right of return is located in the collective conscience of Palestinian refugees, as they have lived and grown up with the idea of return to their homeland, as it is the missing paradise for the elderly and the imagined homeland for the new generation, after it has become a reality in the light of development of the communication methods, so that the barriers and boundaries, which separate the refugee from the rest of his town, or his family, in Galilee, or the Negev, or those living in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, Jordan, or elsewhere. All of these increased the conviction of possibility of return, and increased the insistence on adhering to the right of return, to the extent that touching it, is like an unforgivable touch to the sanctities.

Therefore, the Institute calls the political class in Israel to deal with the refugees' issue as a complex one, which needs special efforts, to deal with it while drawing a solution, because this issue is about values, concepts, ideas and beliefs, which are considered as a source of danger.

This proves once again that Israel, (the elites and institutes of studies and strategic planning), is aware of the seriousness of the refugees' issue, and it recognizes the importance of this paper in the negotiating file, and the difficulty of avoiding them, and believes that the allegations to ignore it by some political elites, are only a form of populist behavior for internal electoral reasons.

According to the Institute's advice, what Israel is supposed to have, is an answer to this issue, on the basis of avoiding the right of return and replacing it with alternative solutions.

Last but not least, it should be noted that the Institute revealed the summary of its studies, which was presented to the Netanyahu government, on the eve of the arrival of US delegation to discuss the issue of negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.

We do not know, on the other hand, what are the papers and files prepared by the Palestinian team on the issue of refugees and the right of return. Is the official position still within the limits of adhering to the initiative of Arab Summit (Beirut 2002), which revoked the right of return?

Moatasem Hamadeh is a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Translated by: Rawan Albash
Revised by: Ibrahim Motlaq

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