1 - Refugees Under Madrid and Oslo
2 - Background
3 - The Israeli Position
4 - The Palestinian Position
5 - During the Interim Period
6 - Proposals
2 - Background
The general term "refugee" is often used loosely to refer to those
Palestinian Arabs who lived in Mandatory Palestine prior to Israel's 1948 War of
Independence, or in the State of Israel prior to the 1967 Six Day War, but as a direct
result of these wars fled to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, neighboring Arab nations or
elsewhere. However, there are three terms which more clearly define such persons based on
the specific circumstances of their displacement.
Refugees: People displaced during -- and as a result of -- the War of Independence in
1948. They include Palestinians who lived within the Green Line, as well as Jews ejected
from Arab countries. There are said to be approximately 800,000 Jews who were expelled
from their native Arab nations at that time or forced to flee as a result of
state-sponsored anti-Zionist violence. As for Palestinians, according to the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which
assumed responsibility for the welfare of these refugees following the 1948 war, they
number between 600,000 and 700,000 people and their descendants.
However, Israeli officials have long questioned these UNRWA figures. They claim that a
number of the 350,000 UNRWA-registered Palestinian refugees presently living in Jordan
actually became displaced as a result of the 1967 Six Day War or after their expulsion
from the Persian Gulf following Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. There are also concerns
that the UNRWA estimates are inflated due to the inclusion of Arab residents of Jerusalem.
Moreover, some Israeli scholars have questioned the extent to which Palestinians living
outside of refugee camps should be included in UNWRA's refugee category, because such
persons may no longer pose an immediate problem or need for rehabilitation.
Displaced Persons: Palestinians displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result
of the 1967 Six Day War. According to Arab authorities, these persons number well over
800,000 including those actually displaced in '67 and their offspring. According to
Israeli officials, the number is closer to 300,000, not including offspring.
Expired Permit Palestinians: Former Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza
Strip who went abroad and overstayed their permits. As a result, they have not been
allowed to re-enter those territories. There are approximately 50,000 such cases (Jordan
claims 90,000). Terms for the readmission of these Palestinians were set to be discussed
in bilateral negotiations with Jordan, according to the Israel-Jordan Common Agenda, which
sets the goal of "Achieving an agreed just solution to the bilateral aspect of the
problem of refugees and displaced persons in accordance with international law."
(Israel-Jordan Common Agenda, Article 4)
According to some analysts, there is an estimated total of 3 million Palestinian
refugees and displaced persons and their descendants as a result of the 1948 and 1967
The issue of Middle East refugees has been repeatedly addressed and debated at the
United Nations. Article 11 of U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, which supports the
concept of right of return for all refugees, has often been used to legitimize the claim
for absolute right of return for Palestinian refugees and displaced persons.
[The General Assembly] resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and
live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest
practicable date. . . . (U.N. Resolution 194 -- Article 11, December 11, 1948)
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