Don’t Palestinian Arabs have a Right of Return based on UN General Assembly Resolution 194?
The third session of the General Assembly refused to accept any decision altering the Partition Resolution of the preceding year, nor did it decide on ways of its implementation. Instead, on November 12, 1948, with Resolution 194 (III)it decided to set up a United Nations Conciliation Commission, reiterated the decision on internationalization of Jerusalem, and laid down several principles on the refugee question.
Since the War of Independence was still going on, most of Resolution 194 deals with seeking a diplomatic solution to the conflict, including setting up an international Conciliation Commission to mediate between the parties. The refugees are mentioned only in Article 11, which resolved:
- … that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.
Article 11 also instructed the Conciliation Commission:
- … to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation.
Palestinian Arabs constantly repeat claims of rights based on Resolution 194, in particular the right to return to lands that are now part of the State of Israel. That position has no basis, certainly not in Resolution 194. General Assembly resolutions, unlike those of the Security Council, are non-binding and essentially are only suggestions. Resolution 194 does not use the language of “rights” or “right of return”. The resolution does not specify the nationality of the refugees; recall that the Palestinian Arab refugees, who voluntarily leftIsrael at the urging of their leaders, are approximately equal in number to the Jews who fled persecution from Arab countries. Any “right of return” or right to compensation is equally present in Resolution 194 for Arabs and Jews. Since the resolution also specifies that its recommendations would apply to refugees who wish “to live at peace with their neighbors,” Arabs would be excluded. It was the Arabs who began the war in 1947 and they continue to be at war with Israel today.
The present-day insistance on a “Right of Return” by Palestinians is a transparent attempt to eliminate Israel by means other than war. If all the refugee Palestinian Arabs, and their descendents, are given the right to return to Israel, then Israel quickly becomes a country with a Jewish minority. The majority Arabs would put an end to Israel without delay. Therefore, any ultimate resolution of this issue will certainly be in terms of limited return (perhaps limited to the few living Arabs who actually once resided in Israel) plus a forumula of compensation for both Arabs and Jews who were displaced by events surrounding the 1948 War of Independence.