The return of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to the State of Israel is one of the most difficult issues facing the parties as they seek to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. According to the Palestinians, the refugees and their descandents have a right to return to the homes which they left between the years 1947-1949. In contrast, the State of Israel vehemently opposes recognizing the right of return and extensive entry of Palestinian refugees into its territory as part of the solution to the dispute. The State of Israel sees this as an existential danger to the national home in which the Jewish people seek to implement their right to self-determination.
This document presents the historical and legal background of this issue. It rests on the argument that the sources of international law do not support the legal right of the Palestinian refugees to return to the State of Israel. A review of the cases of other refugees in regions around the world where ethnic disputes are underway shows that the return of refugees who are members of one national ethnic group to territory which is controlled by another group is generally not the appropriate solution for ending a prolonged ethnic dispute. A discussion of this loaded issue within the framework of a discourse of rights is likely to make it difficult for the parties to resolve the dispute. Accordingly, Israel must insist that the issue of the Palestinian refugees will be dealt with in the framework of political negotiations. Israel must refrain from discussing this issue within the framework of the discourse of rights.