PALESTINE in the UN - What is next?
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York voted overwhelmingly on Thursday, November 29, 2012 to recognize Palestine as a non-member state. The 193-member assembly voted 138 in favor, with only 9 against and 41 abstentions. This is a huge step toward full statehood recognition and should trigger a return to direct negotiations toward reaching an official "final status settlement" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by implementing a two-state solution with Israel remaining a Jewish state and the establishment of a state for the Palestinian people. Will this round of negotiations declared by U.S. Secretary of State which started in Washington DC on July 29th be able to solve the position on Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, security and boarders?
The Palestinian people have come a long way from the PLO wars in Lebanon and its interference in Lebanese internal affairs in the '70s and '80s to the Oslo accord in September 9, 1993, to the Camp David summit in July 11, 2000, to the road map agreement and negotiations under the auspices of President George W. Bush from May 23, 2003 to November 27, 2007 including the famous Annapolis International Conference. Since then, no results were felt in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Surprisingly, and after three years of push backs, the Obama Administration declared a new round of direct talks.
Therefore, the next most pressing issue for Lebanon is the Palestinian refugees in its territories and the full implementation of UNSC resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701. With the full implementation of those resolutions, all armed militias including the armed Palestinian camps and Hezbollah's arsenal must be turned over to the confines of the Lebanese state.
According to the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), which is in charge of the Palestinian refugees, there are 425000 refugees in Lebanon. (numbers are more based on Lebanese NGOs) Their plight began when they were displaced by the Israeli military occupation of their homeland. After the PLO wars in Lebanon against the Lebanese Army and the Christian Militias from 1975 to 1983, they are today distributed in 12 camps in different parts of Lebanon. The Palestinian refugee issue in Lebanon is extremely sensitive for the political stability of the country. The current legal system in Lebanon does not allow the Palestinians to be formally employed and they are barred from up to 70 professions.
From the point of view of the Palestinian refugees, they are political hostages of the Arab League and of the Palestinian leaderships in Ramallah and Gaza. The Palestinian authorities want to keep their situation "pending" as part of their "bargaining power" in the "peace agreement" they have been negotiating with Israel.
The basic principle of the "right of return" according to United Nations resolution 194 of 1948 has become an excuse for the Arab governments to use the Palestinian refugees as an element of alleged "pressure" on Israel.
The fact is that after 65 years, representing probably three or even four generations of Palestinians in exile, their situation has been used and abused for those political reasons.
They were never compensated financially for the loss they have gone through to have a secure way of life. Their basic human rights and their right to have a dignified life have been denied and will certainly not be solved by forcing their legal assimilation into the delicate and fragile fabric of Lebanese society.
The solution is not the legal assimilation, total or partial, of Palestinian refugees as Lebanese, Syrian or Jordanian citizens, which corresponds exactly to Israeli plans, but voluntary relocation in third countries around the world. For that purpose, a UN resolution would have to be adopted establishing a mandate and a plan.
A) Elements of a UN resolution on the solution of the Palestinian refugees.
The Secretary General and/or a group of countries, such as the United States, Russia, Canada, Australia, Brazil, China, the EU and others will convene a special session of the General Assembly of the UN in order to adopt a resolution that could include the following:
1. Acknowledge the responsibility of the international community for the long lasting humanitarian consequences of the partition of Palestine and the situation of the Palestinian refugees, and the need to find a humanitarian solution in their benefit;
2. Acknowledge the urgent need to put an end to the "refugee" status for Palestinians living in Lebanon and in other Arab countries, as well as inside Palestine;
3. Acknowledge the basic human rights of the Palestinian refugees in exile, and their right to chose a willing third country for relocation where they can develop their full capacities and enjoy a dignified and secure way of life;
4. Acknowledge that three generations of Palestinian refugees, after 65 years, cannot continue to be held in refugee camps, hostage to prolonged and uncertain negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority;
5. Acknowledge that the Palestinian refugees should be offered a Palestinian citizenship for which purpose the Palestinian Authority should issue not only identity cards but passports on their behalf;
6. Adopt a plan for the orderly, well funded and respectful voluntary relocation of the Palestinian refugees, particularly those in Lebanon. The plan would include the following steps:
Elements of the Plan
B) Responsibilities of implementing the resolution: UN/UNRWA/PA/new host countries:
1. Through UNRWA, a census of the adult population of refugees in Lebanon should be established in order to register the segment of the refugee population that will be offered the option of relocation in a third country where they will enter as Palestinian nationals with the prospect of adopting a second nationality;
2. The Secretary General and UNRWA will make the necessary diplomatic contacts with potential third countries in order to formalize the corresponding pledges to anticipate as precisely as possible the numbers of Palestinians;
3. Through the United Nations/UNRWA, an international trust fund will be established by donor countries, particularly those most historically involved, in order to facilitate the relocation of the Palestinian population from Lebanon;
4. Through the United Nations/UNRWA, the countries willing to host those Palestinians wishing to relocate will establish the necessary conditions for such relocation within their territories.
5. Each country, in coordination with proper UN agencies, will define its needs to receive financial support from the international trust fund. It will designate specific areas of its territory where Palestinians could initially reside, and it will decide the modalities by which such persons would receive citizenship.
6. The new host countries cannot postpone granting full citizenship and corresponding rights to the individual Palestinians as long as they have no criminal records from the past 5 years;
7. Each new host country will define the conditions for welcoming Palestinians either as immigrants or as settlers. The first condition implies the application of existing migration laws and support from the trust fund, and the other implies the settlement of communities in less populated territories, with corresponding economic incentives and support from the trust fund.
8. UN agencies will monitor to verify that conditions in the new host countries are adequate to ensure the economic, social and cultural development of the Palestinian immigrants;
9. Palestinians will not be forced to give up their Palestinian nationality in order to acquire citizenship in the host country;
10. UNRWA and the Palestinian leadership will facilitate the voluntary reunification of families and relatives currently residing in the West Bank and Gaza in the new host countries;
11. The United Nations will create a separate compensation fund to receive payments from Israel that will cover reimbursements for lost properties and other dues owed to Palestinian refugees since 1948.
The world is responsible for the Palestinian plight, and the world should solve this tragedy through its institutions. This is the only way that the Palestinians in Lebanon can claim back their freedom, dignity and self determination.
As for us, we Lebanese are eager for permanent stability; we do not want other people's wars on our sovereign land; we do not want arms in any hand but the Lebanese armed forces only; we want our kids to remain in Lebanon and build their future; we want this immigration of the Lebanese youth to stop; we have paid dearly for the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts (from1969 Cairo Accord-to 1982 PLO forced out of Lebanon) and Beirut was destroyed by the Israeli-PLO war; we have suffered economically and otherwise from the Arab-Israeli confrontations; we have lost our well-being, our dignity and our freedom from the Syrian-Assad regime occupation for more than 26 years and now we are losing our independence with the Hezbollah-Iran controlling whatever they can to keep Lebanon in this circle of death. Stop and let the Lebanese decide their own faith; spread their authority on their entire land; and allow them to form a government that meet their aspiration. Enough is enough.