Key concerns could hold up talks

Issue of refugees and their right of return remains a major area of disagreement.

Many displaced Palestinians live in refugeecamps in places such as Gaza [Reuters]
Many displaced Palestinians live in refugeecamps in places such as Gaza [Reuters]
In depth

“In 1967, I would have been a boy of 12 or 13 years, with dreams that we would go back to our 1948 land,” Ahmad Saleh, a Palestinian now living in Doha, Qatar, told Al Jazeera.

But instead, Saleh’s family fled again, leaving their homes ahead of the Israeli forces.
Flight of 1967
The 1967 flight became known as a “Naksa” – not a catastrophe, but a “setback”.
A census from 1967 showed that nearly one million Arabs lived in these lands at the time.
Figures from Badil, an organisation that runs the Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, show an estimated 430,000 Palestinians fled their homes in 1967.
More than 190,000 of them were being displaced for a second time.
Forty years on, a survey from Badil puts the number of Palestinian refugees from the 1967 war at 834,000.
The war reshaped the region, establishing Israel as a substantial military power, increasing its territory and as such contributing substantially to the issues that divide the Palestinian and Israeli delegations travelling to Annapolis.
The two sides remain split over the issues of borders, the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
‘Right of return’
With the two sides unable to agree a joint declaration before the gathering, expectations for the Annapolis talks are not high. But in theory at least, the Palestinian’s right of return is already agreed.
In December 1948, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 as part of an attempt to deal with the region of Palestine as it stood at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
The “right of return” is enshrined in Article 11, which “resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date”.
It also states that compensation should be paid to those who choose not to return, as well as for damage to property.
Israel accepted the resolution, essentially because acceptance of it was made a condition of Israel’s entry into the UN.
Interpretation disputed
But there has been much dispute over interpretation of the resolution, with its critics saying it cannot be applied in any practical way and threatens the existence of Israel.
Many displaced Palestinians still live in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as in Gaza, but others have established themselves elsewhere, in Europe, the US across the Middle East, with Palestinians in Jordan making up an important part of the country’s economy.
Many argue that time has passed and that Palestinians now established in other countries, though they might like the right to return, would not actually put it into practice.
Others, Palestinians among them, disagree.
“They say the third generation will forget about Palestine,” Hasan al-Balasi, a Palestinian business man who’s family fled their home in 1967, told Al Jazeera.
“But we have told our children the stories of Palestine and they will not forget.”
Source : Al Jazeera


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