Chairman of the PLO's Refugee Department, As'ad Abd Al-Rahman, held a press conference on February 28 in Ramallah in which he presented the PLO's position on the Refugee issue, in relation to the possibility of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State. Following are excerpts from his speech (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida and Al-Ayyam, March 1, 1999:
PLO Opposition to a Solution to the Refugee Problem within the West Bank and Gaza
Abd Al-Rahman rejected the possibility of solving the refugee problem by absorbing the refugees in the future Palestinian State in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "The refugees will not be satisfied with citizenship in the Palestinian State after its establishment," said Abd Al-Rahman. He added that the Palestinian State will be one of the states hosting the refugees, who insist on returning to their homes and homeland, in accordance with [UN Security Council's] Resolution 194. Abd Al-Rahman further claimed that the Palestinian Authority, like Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, is a host of refugees, and it will maintain this status, after the declaration of an independent Palestinian state.
The PLO Will Not Consider Any Option but the Return of Refugees to Their Homes
Abd Al-Rahman added that for the Palestinian leadership no other scenario is conceivable but the realization of UN Security Council Resolution 194 that stipulated their right for return and compensation. The Palestinian side in the multilateral negotiations on the Refugee Problem only presents methods for the implementation of Resolution 194 as "the one and only solution we believe in." We are not willing to discuss any alternatives, Al-Rahman added.
Abd Al-Rahman presented the PLO Refugee Department's position and stated that the department faced two main missions. The first mission is "to protect the political rights of the refugees to return to their homes, and to receive compensation for 50 years of suffering and loss of revenues from their property." The other mission is to alleviate the suffering of the refugees in the camps.
Abd Al-Rahman estimated that eighty percent of the Palestinian refugees insist on implementing their right of return and compensation, a fact that foiled all the attempts over the years to solve their problem through citizenship in the hosting countries.