Lebanese vow to reject any Palestinian resettlement linked to Trump peace plan

President Donald Trump with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he announced his peace plan in the White House. (File/AFP)
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Updated 29 January 2020

Lebanese vow to reject any Palestinian resettlement linked to Trump peace plan

  • Trump’s plan includes billions of dollars of investment in the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries
  • Figures from the Lebanese Ministry of Interior reveal that the country hosted almost 600,000 Palestinian refugees between 1948 and 2016

BEIRUT: In response to the unveiling of US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan on Tuesday, politicians and activists in Lebanon reiterated their support for the right of Palestinians to return to their homeland, and said they would reject any attempt to permanently resettle refugees on its soil.

Trump’s plan includes billions of dollars of investment in the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries, including Lebanon, which is grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis. Some are worried that the investment might be an inducement to accept the permanent settlement of Palestinian refugees, sparking renewed fears of a shift in the country’s Christian-Muslim balance.

Lebanon hosts 12 refugee camps for Palestinians. A day of protest about the Trump plan was due to take place in the camps on Wednesday, including a general strike, marches and rallies.

Figures from the Lebanese Ministry of Interior reveal that the country hosted almost 600,000 Palestinian refugees between 1948 and 2016. The number registered with The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is 459,292. A census carried out in 2017 by Lebanon’s Central Statistics Department and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in 2017 found that 174,422 refugees lives in the camps.

“Lebanon does not currently have any strategy on how to face this difficult moment,” said Hassan Mneimneh, head of the Lebanese–Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), an inter-ministerial government body.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not prepared any strategy on how to deal with any attempt to impose resettlement as a fait accompli. We, as Lebanese, must strive to confront this long path because resettlement will not happen overnight, and Lebanon must refuse any trade off between its faltering economic situation and the resettlement issue. There should be no compromise on this matter at all.

“The solutions to the economic crisis must be far removed from the temptations that might be offered to Lebanon in exchange for resettlement.”

Walid Ghayad, a spokesman for the Maronite Catholic Patriarchate in Lebanon, stressed that it “absolutely rejects any attempt to resettle the Palestinians in Lebanon and supports the official Lebanese position, which is enshrined in the constitution.”

He added: “All kinds of deals calling for resettlement are rejected, and (the church) supports the establishment of the two-state solution. It hosted an Islamic-Christian spiritual summit when the US president announced his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi also participated in the Al-Azhar Al-Sharif International Conference on Supporting Jerusalem.”

The leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, said that Trump’s so-called deal of the century “is the end of the two-state solution and the beginning of the project of displacement to reach an alternative homeland.”

MP Simon Abi Ramia from the Free Patriotic Movement, which opposes any resettlement in Lebanon for fear of upsetting the sectarian balance, described the deal of the century as “the result of a policy of deception adopted by some sister states against the Palestinian issue.”

Ali Faisal, a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and himself a refugee in Lebanon, said: “A number of Palestinian youths and Palestinian families have migrated from Lebanon to work abroad. There are 160,000 Palestinians working in the Gulf countries, while others migrated in stages to Europe and Canada, and a limited number to Australia.”

He said that there are “fewer than 100,000 Palestinian refugees from Lebanon who are abroad and have another nationality. Those who were removed from the Lebanese records in 2009 as a result of possessing a second nationality began to regain their Palestinian citizenship after efforts made by the Palestinian authorities and the Lebanese state to assert the Palestinian right of return.”

Faisal described Trump’s peace deal as “a political holocaust against the Palestinians and their right of return.”

He added: “The new Palestinian generation is more attached to Palestine than its predecessors. Palestinians (do not want) resettlement, rather they want support to continue (their struggle) to return.

“The economic crisis that Lebanon is experiencing has affected Palestinian refugees, who are already deprived of their human rights. The unemployment rate among Palestinians in Lebanon’s camps has risen from 60 percent to 70 percent. UNRWA’s medical and relief services have declined. What is needed is an emergency plan from UNRWA to help Palestinians survive Lebanon’s economic crisis.”

The Fatah movement in Lebanon announced the “comprehensive mobilization of its ranks” and declared Wednesday a “day of rage” and protest in all Palestinian camps and communities in Lebanon.

Fatah said “it stands behind President Mahmoud Abbas” and vowed to “resist the damned deal by all methods guaranteed by international and humanitarian laws.”

Ayman Shana’a, Lebanese relations officer in the Hamas movement, said that Trump’s plan “is an obituary to all the agreements with the Palestine Liberation Organization and international agreements, as well as the Oslo agreements and international resolutions. The only way to confront this deal lies in Palestinian national unity that stands in the face of all challenges.”

Ihsan Ataya, a representative of the Islamic Jihad movement in Lebanon, said: “Trump is trying to give an electoral boost to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is throwing out all international resolutions, humanitarian standards and norms, and we will not allow this deal to pass.

“Our people at home and in the diaspora will remain attached to all their rights and will not accept resettlement or displacement...and resistance is ready."


‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

Updated 21 February 2020

‘Social explosion’ in Lebanese camps imminent, warn officials

  • Situation volatile as Palestinian refugees face economic crisis after US peace plan

BEIRUT: Authorities are battling to prevent “a social explosion” among Palestinian refugees crammed into camps in Lebanon, a top official has revealed.

Fathi Abu Al-Ardat, secretary of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) factions in Lebanon, told Arab News that urgent measures were being put in place to try and stop the “crisis” situation getting out of control.

“Conditions in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon are very difficult due to the economic crisis facing the country, and we are trying to delay a social explosion in the camps and working on stopgap solutions,” he said.

And Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, the head of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC), said: “More Palestinian refugees from the camps in Lebanon are immigrating. Embassies are receiving immigration requests, and Canada is inundated with a wave of immigration because its embassy has opened doors to applications.”

According to a population census conducted in 2017 by the Central Administration of Statistics in Lebanon, in coordination with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), there are 174,422 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon spread across 12 camps and nearby compounds.

Mneimneh insisted the figure was accurate despite the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) estimating there to be 459,292 refugees in the country. He said: “The census we had conducted refers to the current reality in Lebanon.”

He added that he feared “increased pressure on European donor countries over UNRWA in the coming days after the unilateral implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century’ (the US peace plan for the Middle East) by Israel.

“Israel’s goal is to undermine UNRWA’s mission as a prelude to ending the Palestinian cause and, thus, preventing the return of Palestinians.”

Mneimneh held a meeting on Wednesday with two Lebanese and Palestinian action groups in Lebanon to discuss Palestinian asylum issues in light of the American peace plan. There were no representatives of Hezbollah or Hamas present at the talks.

He said: “This deal kick-starts an unusual stage that carries the most serious risks not only to the Palestinian people and cause, but also to the other countries and entities in the Arab region.

“The first of these is Lebanon, which senses the danger of this announcement in view of the clauses it contains to eliminate the Palestinian cause, including the refugee issue and the possibility of their settlement in the host countries.”

Al-Ardat said: “Palestinian refugees have no choice but to withstand the pressures on them to implement the so-called ‘Deal of the Century.’ What is proposed is that we sell our country for promises, delusions, and $50 billion distributed to three countries. Palestine is not for sale.”

He pointed out that “the camps in Lebanon resorted to family solidarity in coordination with the shops in the camps. Whoever does not have money can go to the shop after two (2 p.m.) in the afternoon and get vegetables for free.

“We have been securing 7,000 packs of bread to distribute in the camps and buying the same amount to sell the pack at 500 liras. But this does not solve the problem.”

He added: “The PLO leadership continues to perform its duty toward the refugees and, until now, we have not been affected by the restrictions imposed by banks in Lebanon, and refugees are still receiving medical treatment.

“However, our concern now is that Palestinian refugees do not starve, taking into account all the indications that the situation in Lebanon will not improve soon.

“Twenty percent of the Palestinians in Lebanon receive wages either from UNRWA — as they work there — or from the PLO because they are affiliated with the factions, but 80 percent are unemployed and have no income.”

The meeting hosted by Mneimneh agreed “the categorical rejection of the ‘Deal of the Century’ because it means further erasing the identity existence of the Palestinian people as well as their national rights, especially their right to return and establish their independent state.

“It also means assassinating the Palestinian peoples’ legitimate rights and supporting Israel’s usurpation of international justice and 72 years of Arab struggle.

“The deal includes ambiguous, illegal and immoral approaches that contradict all relevant UN and Security Council resolutions, especially with regard to the establishment of the Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and establish their state with Jerusalem as its capital,” a statement on the meeting added.

“UNRWA must remain the living international witness to the ongoing suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian people, and UNRWA must continue to receive support.”

Attendees at the talks also recommended “improving the conditions of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to strengthen the elements of their steadfastness until they return.” This was “based on the Unified Lebanese Vision for the Palestinian Refugees Affairs in Lebanon document, which includes the right to work.”