Israel, the US, and the international community will formulate a multi-year program for full and rapid rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugees, while absorbing them as citizens in various countries.
During the rehabilitation process, UNRWA, an organization that perpetuates the status of the refugees, will be dismantled, and all residents of refugee camps will be offered permanent places of residence, citizenship, and a generous rehabilitation grant. The refugee camps will also be dismantled following this process
Palestinian child in refugee camp. Photo: Flash 90
The unique nature of the Palestinian refugee problem
The 1948 Israeli War of Independence created hundreds of thousands of refugees throughout the Middle East. Sixty years have gone by, and now their number has been increased by the second and third generations to millions. Since 1948 tens of other "refugee problems" have been created, and millions have become refugees in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Although their problem began later than that of the Palestinians, these people are no longer considered refugees. They have been aided by the UN in host countries or through their own personal initiative and have become regular citizens. Over the same period, not a single Palestinian refugee has been removed from the tally of refugees and become a citizen of one of the countries of the world. On the contrary, the number of refugees has only increased from year to year, while introducing fresh generations into the circle of poverty, despair, and hate.
UNRWA and the perpetuation of refugee status
The major reason for the failure to rehabilitate the refugees over this entire period is that their wretched status serves the purposes of Palestinian terrorist organizations. The PLO and the Palestinian Authority feed on this problem and as a result, the entire Arab world has regarded the preservation of the status of the Palestinians as refugees as a means of attacking the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Fearing that mention of the problem would raise once again the question of "the right of return," Israel has also preferred to ignore the problem rather than attempt to solve it.
The story of UNRWA is typical of the perpetuation of refugee status
The treatment of refugees in the world is divided between two UN agencies: a general agency, UNHCR, whose mandate is to deal with all the refugees in the world, and UNRWA, a special agency designated to assist Palestinian refugees from 1948. The difference between these two agencies is very simple: the first, "regular" agency strives towards the rehabilitation of the refugees it is handling, and to facilitate their integration as citizens in the countries in which they are staying or that are prepared to accept them. In contrast, UNRWA is forbidden to rehabilitate the refugees in its care and turn them into citizens having equal rights in any country. Its role is confined to "maintenance" of the refugees from 1948, while preserving their status.
UNRWA is also mainly responsible for the maintenance of the refugee camps. The very existence of these camps, sixty years after the war that generated them, is both a source of shame to humanity and a grave threat to security and peace in the Middle East. These camps constitute a breeding ground for terrorism, where the motivation for terrorism originates, units are formed, and terrorists find refuge.
A humanitarian solution to the refugee problem
A solution to the refugee problem must be a major component of any settlement. Israel must make every effort to finally solve the problem of the refugees of 1948, and demand that the international community play an active role. The solution of the refugee problem must begin with the dismantling of UNRWA and continue with the implementation of a generous compensation program for all Palestinian refugees who will be given the option of making a new life for themselves and being accepted as citizens in a range of countries that welcome immigration. It is important to emphasize that this is what the majority of Palestinian refugees desire, as evidenced by recent reliable surveys. The new reality in the Middle East has made many Arab countries view the resolution of the refugee problem as a necessity in their self-interest.
As part of the process of refugee rehabilitation and compensation, the refugee camps will be gradually dismantled and their latent threat and the shame of their existence eliminated. It is not difficult, for example, to imagine how a generous rehabilitation program applied in Gaza would be the noblest gift to Palestinian society and to the world at large by allowing one million Gazan refugees wallowing in misery to escape their plight.
Who will pay?
Billions of dollars are expended every year on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This includes US dollars poured into the regional arms race; immense sums of European money transferred to the accounts of the Palestinian Authority; and large amounts of Israeli money invested in the separation fence, the disengagement, and the "strengthening" of Abu Mazen.
The US, Europe, and Israel, together with the Arab oil producing countries, can directly finance a program that would provide full and generous rehabilitation for the refugees of 1948 – rehabilitation that would enable them to be absorbed in a series of countries that welcome immigrants coming with means of making a living and with a basis for a new, hopeful start.
Independent polls indicate that half of all Palestinians are considering moving to a different country
Independent polls, commissioned over the years by both Palestinian and Israeli polling agencies, clearly indicate that Palestinians are becoming increasingly convinced that living under Palestinian Authority control will not solve their problems. There are growing signs that the Palestinian population would be open to a true humanitarian solution that would enable them to rebuild their lives in other countries. A survey that was conducted in 2004 showed that half (50%) of Palestinian society does not rule out the option of permanently moving to another country if they had the ability and means to relocate. In this survey, 71% of those polled named the major factors that would lead them to make a permanent move to another country: Assurance of a job abroad (16%), a substantial financial incentive (19%), promise of a place to live and a high level of education (14%). Only 15% replied that nothing would convince them to relocate. This poll was conducted by Ma'agar Mochot - a leading Israeli polling agency - in cooperation with The Palestinian Center for Public Opinion under the management of Dr. Nabil Kokli. A survey that was conducted in 2007 by the Palestinian A-Najakh University in Nablus showed that 31.4% of Palestinians are considering rebuilding their lives in another country, assuming they could achieve a good standard of living in that country. A survey that was conducted in September 2007 by the Center for Palestinian Policy and Research headed by Dr. Khalil Shkaki, showed that 32%of Palestinians want to emigrate to another country.
Survey conducted by AN NAJAH national university, November 2006