REMARKS BY DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER OF ISRAEL DR. YOSSI BEILIN
MULTILATERAL WORKING GROUP ON REFUGEES

TUNIS, OCTOBER 12, 1993

1. Thanks to the Tunisian government for hosting this meeting.

2. Appreciations to Tarje Larson for his role in the "Oslo channel".

3. Reference to important events of the last months.

4. We have for the first time agreed on a framework through which we can work to design a solution.

5. The problem of refugees from 1948 will be discussed in the negotiations for a permanent solution (Article V(3) of the Declaration of Principles).

6. The problem of displaced persons from 1967 will be discussed within the framework of the liaison and cooperation committee, with the participation of representatives of the Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt and Israel (Article XII of the Declaration of Principles).

7. The issue of former residence is a priority item within the bilateral negotiations between Israel and Jordan.

8. Dealing with the question of former residents of the territories is done within the framework of the bilateral negotiations between Israel and Jordan.

9. The issue of reunification of families is one of the agenda items for this conference. The Government of Israel has established criteria for approving requests of this nature that are in keeping with accepted standards. They are:

– reuniting husbands with wives
– reuniting wives with husbands
– reunification in cases with humanitarian aspects.

10. This refers to Palestinians, without any geographic distinction, who want to unite with their families in the West Bank and Gaza. This number does not include members of the Palestinian police and others who will participate in the interim self-government.

11. This is in addition to six thousand persons who were given the right to permanent residency in the territories, who had initially arrived for temporary visits and who had extended their residence beyond the date allowed in their original permits.

In addition, the government of Israel has decided to permit ten persons who were deported in the early 1970’s, together with their immediate families, to return to the territories immediately.

12. A significant number of prisoners will be released in the near future and more deportees will be allowed to return. This within the framework of the Israel-PLO negotiations.

13. Defining the appropriate framework for a discussion of the varied aspects of the refugee problem, including Israel’s policy concerning reunification of families, will allow our Working Group to focus on the humanitarian aspects of the issue of refugees and on the effort to create acceptable living conditions to the refugees.

14. For a whole generation the refugee problem has been perceived as insurmountable. The key to the solution is to understand each other’s pain and other other’s red lines. That was the success of the Oslo channel.

15. In the very near future, we will have to tackle sensitive issues, left untouched for many decades. We must touch some delicate nerves: the brutalities of past wars, the missed opportunities, and the regional ‘march of folly’.

16. I believe that we will be courageous enough at that moment of truth, since when at the end of the day we adjourn, it is us the Palestinians and the Israelis who will share a common future.