Our vision requires a just solution to the Palestinian refugee issue in accordance with international law, and specifically UN General Assembly Resolution 194. A just solution must be based on the right of return and reparations. Our position on refugees is also included and supported in the Arab Peace Initiative (API), which calls for “a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.” A just solution to the refugee issue must address two aspects: the right of return and reparations.
Right of Return
Key to the resolution of the refugee issue is Israel’s recognition of the applicable principles and rights of the refugees, including our refugees’ right to return to their homes and lands. Israel’s recognition of the right of return will pave the way to negotiating how that right will be implemented. Choice is a critical part of the process. Our refugees must be allowed to choose how to implement their rights and normalize their status. The options for our refugees should be: return to Israel, return/resettlement to a future Palestinian state, integration in host states, or resettlement in third-party states. Rehabilitation in the form of professional training, education, medical services, provision of housing, etc will also be a necessary component of each of the options.
Reparations consist of three elements. The first is Israel’s recognition of its role in the creation and perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee upheaval. While Israel may have its own narrative to explain the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Palestinian refugees, it is undeniable that when our refugees sought to return to their homes, Israel systematically, and adamantly, blocked their efforts. To this day, Israel continues to deny their right to return. Israel must acknowledge unequivocally its responsibility for these actions if there is to be a just, peaceful, and sustainable solution to the conflict.
Restitution is the second element of reparations. Under international law, restitution is the primary remedy for property that has been confiscated arbitrarily. If restitution is materially impossible, or where the damage will not be made whole by restitution alone, or if a refugee chooses compensation in lieu of restitution, that compensation must be full and complete. Alternatively, compensation in-kind may be offered in the form of vacant land in Israel.
Compensation is the third element of reparations and is comprised of three categories. Compensation must be made for property that cannot be restituted (or if the refugee chooses compensation in lieu of restitution), for material damages (personal items, livelihood, etc.) and for non-material damages (pain and suffering resulting from longstanding displacement).