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European Council on Foreign Relations





By - 10 December 2013

Key to a comprehensive two-state solution will be the ability to address the Palestinian refugee issue by mutual agreement. This, as proposed through different parameters and terms of reference since Oslo, implies that the number of refugees who would actually be allowed to assume residence in/return to Israel would be limited. The vast majority of refugees are therefore likely to live in the new State of Palestine, to be rehabilitated in current host countries, or relocated in third countries. A second component of a solution for Palestinian refugees as previously outlined in more productive rounds of negotiations is a compensation mechanism, possibly with Israel being the primary compensator, especially if the agreement includes clauses on an “end of conflict” and of all claims. A third component could be the recognition of a shared narrative on the issue, particularly with regards to Israeli responsibilities.

This category looks first at the current living conditions of Palestinian refugees in the three largest host countries: Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. Worsening standards of living make it more problematic and costly to rehabilitate refugees in these countries, although the absorption capacity in these cases is also a political, rather than just an economic decision. While public perceptions of the refugee issue in the host countries are an important component, they are not scored here as they are difficult to measure on a regular basis. Secondly, this category looks at the extent to which Palestinian public opinion seems able to endorse a compromise on the refugee issue. Thirdly, it attempts to assess the willingness amongst the Israeli public and leadership to negotiate constructively on issues of return, including compensation and recognition of historical responsibility. Finally, a crucial component of the management of the refugee issue is the functioning of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees in the Near East, which this category measures, specifically focusing on its funding.

Scores in this section are based on data from UNRWA as they were the most comprehensive and up-to-date. However, this data only applies to refugees using UNRWA facilities. Research done by FAFO in the past has shown that there is limited discrepancy between the living conditions of refugees and non-refugees, except for Lebanon.


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