The term "right of return" is not mentioned in the Geneva Accord signed last Sunday in Jordan by Palestinian and Israeli representatives. This is apparent from the full text of Article 7 ("Significance of the refugee problem") obtained by Haaretz.
In addition, in the accord, Israel does not recognize responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem.
In the last paragraph of the accord, the sides agree that the UN should adopt the document in full and pass a special resolution that will replace and annul its previous resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this way, it would also annul General Assembly Resolution 194 about the refugees.
Prof. Ruth Lapidot, an expert in international law and former legal advisor to the Foreign Ministry who examined the document, said yesterday her interpretation was that it does not leave any further opening to Palestinian demands for the return of refugees to Israel on the basis of the right of return.
Lapidot said that the right of return is not mentioned in the UN resolutions dealt with by the Geneva Accord. In her opinion, General Assembly Resolution 194, which is mentioned in the Arab League's declaration as the basis for the solution to the refugee problem, does not constitute recognition of the right of return. Moreover, she says, the understandings note that the implementation of Article 7 about the refugees will be considered the final implementation of all the UN resolutions and the Arab League declaration and will, in fact, put an end to all Palestinian demands from Israel on this issue.
Lapidot considers of special importance the Palestinian recognition of total Israeli sovereignty with regard to settling refugees within its territory (known as Option 4 - see below). As opposed to the first option of transferring the refugees to the state of Palestine, it is stated that the realization of the option of returning to Israel, as with the option of immigrating to a third country, is conditional upon the agreement of the absorbing country with regard to every refugee.
Lapidot added that a Palestinian signature affixed to the Geneva Accord takes precedence over possible general claims for a right of return. Therefore, she believes, no special importance should be attributed to the fact that the understandings do not contain a Palestinian declaration about forgoing the right of return.
The following are excerpts from the draft text:
l "Option 4 shall be at the sovereign sole discretion of Israel... This number shall represent the total number of refugees that Israel shall accept."
l "The parties recognize that [resolutions] 194 and 242, and the Arab peace initiative... concerning the rights of the Palestinian refugees represent the basis for resolving the refugee issue, and agree that these rights are fulfilled according to Article 7 of this agreement."
l "Palestinian refugee status shall be terminated on the realization of the individual refugees permanent place of residence as determined by the International Commission."
l "This agreement provides for the permanent and complete resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. No claims may be raised except for those related to the implementation of this agreement."
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