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APN to McCain, Obama: Support Negotiated Solution of Refugee Problem

The fifth installment in APN's "Responsibility over Rhetoric" initiative was sent to the campaigns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 10, 2008
CONTACT:  Ori Nir - (202) 728-1893

Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now today urged the presidential candidates to support Israeli-Palestinian efforts to resolve the problem of Palestinian refugees through negotiations, and to avoid statements that might prejudice a negotiated formula.

The message was sent to the campaigns as the fifth installment in APN's "Responsibility over Rhetoric" initiative, aimed at the Obama and McCain campaigns. APN's initiative offers responsible and constructive ways for the presidential candidates to talk about issues relating to Israel and Middle East peace.

Following is the full text of APN's issue-brief on the issue of refugees, sent today to the campaigns:

The Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967 gave birth to a population of Palestinian refugees who lost their land, homes and livelihoods in the land which is now Israel.

The refugee issue and the Palestinian trauma of 1948 are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Addressing this issue will be a key component of the next president's Mideast peacemaking challenge.

 Morally, a resolution of this human tragedy must be one of the most important goals of the peace process.

Politically and strategically, any effort to resolve the conflict without addressing the needs and grievances of these refugees is doomed to fail, sowing even deeper frustration and hopelessness and creating fertile ground for future friction and violence.

Moreover, the issue has wider impacts, effecting the stability and security of countries of the region that are home to the refugee populations and providing a powerful point around which extremists rally support. American efforts to see an independent and democratic Lebanon, for example, could be impacted by this issue.

Since the outset of Israeli-Palestinian relations and the birth of the peace process, it has been clear that any solution to the refugee issue will have to be found within the borders of a future Palestinian state, rather than inside Israel. Indeed, while refusal to relinquish the principle of a "right of return" is the prerogative of the Palestinians, demands that the principle be implemented inside Israel are tantamount to a demand that Israel cease to exist as a Jewish state.

Successive peace initiatives - including the Clinton parameters, the Geneva Initiative, and the Arab League Initiative -make clear that a solution to the issue must be found that is acceptable to both sides, respecting both the sensitivities of the Palestinian refugees and Israel's sovereign right to determine who may live within its borders. According to recent Israeli media reports, ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have produced some understandings regarding the broad outlines of a formula to resolve the issue.

Until the issue is resolved, the international community, under the leadership of the United States, has authorized the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to provide humanitarian support for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon UNRWA plays a vital role as a source of stability and humanitarian assistance - food, medical care and education - to a population in severe stress. The effective operation of UNRWA - until such time as a permanent and mutually acceptable solution for the Palestinian refugees can be achieved - is vital to both American and Israeli security interests. It provides some degree of stability for the population and helps to stave off a humanitarian disaster.

APN urges the presidential candidates to:

  • Support Israeli-Palestinian efforts to reach a negotiated formula to resolve the refugee problem, in the context of a comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in a manner that ensures the security of a Jewish and democratic state of Israel; 
  • Avoid statements that might prejudice the outcome of negotiations on this issue; 
  • Support the mission of UNRWA and reject pressure to curtail UNRWA's mandate.  

APN is a non-partisan American Jewish, Zionist organization dedicated to peace and security for Israel and to supporting the Israeli Peace Now movement. For more on APN's "Responsibility over Rhetoric" initiative, please visit: