COMMITTEE ON THE EXERCISE
OF THE INALIENABLE RIGHTS
OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE
NOTE BY THE CHAIRMAN
At its 9th meeting, the Committee authorized its Chairman to request the Secretary-General to invite members of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine to communicate to the Committee their views and observations on those aspects of the Commission's work which they considered useful for the work of the Committee.
In reply to the Chairman's letter dated 31 March 1976, the Secretary-General by a letter dated 30 April 1976 transmitted to the Chairman a statement summarizing the work of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine from its inception to date. In his letter, the Secretary-General stated that the summary had been checked for accuracy by members of the Commission.
In conformity with the decision of the Committee at its 15th meeting, on 11 May 1976, the summary is reproduced as a document of the Committee.
The United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine
1. On 16 September 1948, the United Nations Mediator in Palestine, Count Folke Bernadotte, submitted a progress report to the Secretary-General on his mandate under General Assembly resolution 186 (S-II) of 14 May 1948 which had asked him inter alia
"to use his good offices with the local and community authorities in Palestine to:
(i) Arrange for the operation of common services necessary to the safety and well-being of the population of Palestine;
(ii) Assure the protection of the Holy Places, religious buildings and sites in Palestine;
(iii) Promote a peaceful adjustment of the future situation of Palestine; …"
2. The report of the Mediator contained his conclusions which included recommendations for a peace agreement, or at least an armistice, suggestions for the territorial arrangements in the former mandated territory, in particular for placing the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Places under United Nations control. He also recommended that "the right of the Arab refugees to return to their homes in Jewish-controlled territory at the earliest possible date should be affirmed by the United Nations." To supervise the execution of these proposals, including the "repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation" of the Arab refugees as well as "payment of adequate compensation for the property of those choosing not to return to their former homes, Count Bernadotte recommended the establishment of a United Nation conciliation commission for Palestine.
3. The General Assembly included the Palestine question in the agenda of its third session and discussed the progress report of the late Mediator. Although the representatives of the Arab States as well as the representative of the Provisional Government of Israel rejected the main conclusions of the progress report, the General Assembly adopted on 11 December 1948 resolution 194 (III) providing for the creation of a three-member Conciliation Commission. 1/
I. The mandate of the Commission (resolution 194 (III)
of December 1948)
4. Resolution 194 (III) adopted on 11 December 1948, established a Conciliation Commission of three States Members of the United Nations and defined its functions as follows:
"(a) To assume, in so far as it considers necessary in existing circumstances, the function given to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine by resolution 186 (S-II) of the General Assembly of 14 May 1948;
(b) To carry out the specific functions and directives given to it by the present resolution and such additional functions and directives as may be given to it by the General Assembly or by the Security Council;
(c) To undertake, upon the request of the Security Council, any of the functions now assigned to the United Nations Mediator on Palestine or to the United Nations Truce Commission by resolutions of the Security Council, upon such request to the Conciliation Commission by the Security Council with respect to all the remaining functions of the United Nations Mediator on Palestine under Security Council resolutions, the office of the Mediator shall be terminated; …"
5. While giving the Commission the general task of facilitating a settlement of all questions outstanding between the countries party to the Palestine conflict, the resolution singled out two questions on which the General Assembly formulated principles and specific instructions for the Commission. These were (1) the internationalization of the Jerusalem area and (2) the question of the refugees.
6. The Commission took up its functions in January 1949 and submitted during the following two years eight progress reports the last of which, dated 2 September 1950, 2/ offered a comprehensive survey over the developments since the initiation of its work. The following outline of the principal issues confronting the Commission in those first years is based on the General Progress Report of 2 September 1950.
II. The conciliation effort
7. Paragraphs 4 and 6 of resolution 194 (III) had instructed the Commission to begin its functions at once, with a view to the establishment of contact between the parties themselves and the Commission at the earliest possible date and to take steps to assist the governments and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them.
8. In the course of a series of official visits to the parties in the conflict, the Commission was informed that the Arab States were not prepared to enter into general peace negotiations with Israel, until the refugee question had been settled, at least in principle. Generally, the Arab Governments maintained that the acceptance by Israel of the right of refugees, as expressed in paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III), to return to their homes, must be regarded as the condition sine qua non for the discussion of other questions. The Government of Israel, on the other hand, was not prepared to accept as a principle the injunction contained in paragraph 11 nor to negotiate on any point separately and outside the framework of a general settlement. It was willing, however, to meet with the Arab States separately or collectively for the purpose of entering into general peace negotiations.
9. During meetings in Beirut from 21 March to 5 April 1949 the Arab States, except Iraq, indicated to the Commission that they would not insist on a settlement of the refugee problem prior to discussions on other outstanding questions. The Commission communicated this Arab concession to the Israeli Government and with the consent of both sides invited the Arab States and Israel to a conference in Lausanne. Four Arab States–Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria–and Israel accepted the invitation, and the Commission held its first meeting in Lausanne on 27 April. The parties did not agree to engage in direct negotiations under the auspices of the Commission.
10. The Commission stressed that the outstanding issues, and particularly the refugee question and the territorial question, were closely interlinked, and therefore urged the Arab and Israel delegations to extend their exchanges of views to all the problems covered by resolution 194 (III). To this end, it asked the parties separately to sign with the Commission a Protocol which would constitute the basis of work. This Protocol of 12 May 1949 stated:
"The United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, anxious to achieve as quickly as possible the objectives of the General Assembly's resolution of 11 December 1948, regarding refugees, the respect for their rights and the preservation of their property, as well as territorial and other questions, has proposed to the delegations of the Arab States and to the delegation of Israel that the working document attached hereto be taken as a basis for discussions with the Commission.
"The interested delegations have accepted this proposal with the understanding that the exchange of views which will be carried on by the Commission with the two parties will bear upon the territorial adjustments necessary to the above indicated objectives."
11. To this document was annexed a map on which were indicated the boundaries defined in the General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947. This map was taken as the basis of discussion with the Commission.
12. In signing the Protocol, the Israeli representative, however, stated that his delegation's signature was subject to the terms of his letter of 9 May to the Chairman of the Commission, in which he had declared that his signature in no way prejudiced the right of his delegation to express itself freely on the matters at issue, on which it fully reserved its position. Asking for a clarification of the Israeli reservation, the Chairman suggested that it meant simply that the Israeli delegation reserved its right to reject parts of the boundaries set out in the partition plan and to propose others, but that the plan would be adhered to as a point from which to work. The Israeli representative confirmed that this had been his meaning.
13. It soon became apparent that the immediate problem consisted in linking the negotiations on the refugee problem and on the territorial questions." On 15 August, the Commission submitted to the parties a memorandum raising a few questions concerning primarily the refugees and the territorial issue, the answers to which would define the position of the delegations towards the aims established by the General Assembly and would enable the Commission to determine its future approach. The Commission also inquired whether the parties would agree to facilitate the task of an Economic Survey Mission, charged by the United Nations with the establishment of major works projects in the Middle East to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the Arab refugees.
14. The Commission considered the proposals of the parties concerning the territorial question, which it had received on 29 and 31 August 1949. These proposals had reiterated the earlier stand of the parties. The Arab States also urged the Commission to submit its own proposals and refused direct negotiations with Israel, the latter called for direct talks and warned that if the Commission formulated specific suggestions of its own it would call in question the conciliation effort and the terms of the Commission itself.
15. In its reply of 10 December 1949, the Commission pointed out to the delegation of Israel that it continued to be in favour of direct negotiations between the parties, but that resolution 194 (III) had provided for both: direct and indirect negotiations involving the Commission, and that the Arab States wished to negotiate through the Commission. It also pointed out that its power to submit concrete proposals arose not only from the very nature of its task of conciliation, but from subparagraph 2 (a) of resolution 194 (III) which had transferred the functions of the United Nations Mediator to the Commission. In its reply, Israel stated that it would be preferable to await the outcome of the discussion by the General Assembly concerning the future of the Commission before preparing any long-term plans for the conciliation effort. Israel also renewed its objection to the Commission itself making any specific proposals to the parties. The Commission maintained its view concerning its mandate and decided to undertake a procedure of mediation. For this purpose, it reconvened on 16 January 1950 in Geneva in order to continue its negotiations with the parties.
16. At first, the Commission proposed to form a mixed committee, consisting of one Egyptian, one Israeli and one Committee representative, to deal with a specific Egyptian request concerning Arab refugees in Gaza, but Israel refused to discuss the issue at all and Egypt demanded that Israel accept the request prior to the formation of the mixed committee, which would merely concern itself with the implementation. The Commission realized that it would not be possible to undertake negotiations between any Arab State and Israel, limited to single specific subjects. It decided, therefore, to propose a new procedure which would combine the Arab request for mediation and the Israeli request for direct negotiation by establishing mixed committees. In a memorandum, the Commission declared that the Arab and Israeli viewpoints were not incompatible but complementary the Commission would determine what questions to include in its proposals, since it alone could judge the advisability of such submissions at any given moment. This would not prevent the parties from indicating questions on which the Commission could usefully take the initiative. The Commission subsequently explained that the joint negotiations which it suggested would be triangular negotiations involving the parties as well as the Commission.
17. The Arab reply to these proposals stated that if the Commission obtained Israel's compliance with the provisions of resolution 194 (III) in connexion with the refugees, the Arabs would be willing to discuss jointly With Israel the details of implementing these provisions. As regards the other questions under study by the Commission, the Arab Governments would like to see the previous procedure maintained with one difference, namely that the Commission should undertake mediation as well as conciliation. Once agreement in principle had been attained to such proposals as the Commission might submit, the Arab Governments would consider the formation of mixed committees to study the implementation of these proposals.
18. The Government of Israel replied that it would negotiate a peace settlement with the Arab States directly either with or without the Commission on the understanding that the principal negotiators would be the Israeli and Arab delegations, while the Commission would act as a "harmonizing agent" and extend its good offices to the parties. It also reaffirmed its willingness to negotiate with any State which announced its readiness to conclude a final comprehensive peace settlement.
19. The Commission decided not to resume the exchange of views about its previous proposals and instead to inform the parties of the principles which would guide the Commission in the conduct of negotiations within the mixed committees. The Commission stressed the following points:
"(a) It indicated that the objective aimed at was to achieve a final settlement of the Palestine problem as called for in General Assembly resolution 194 (III);
(b) It noted that the various problems raised by such a settlement were linked together;
(c) It recognized, nevertheless, that some of the problems were of an urgent nature and might, by agreement between the parties, be examined before the others;
(d) Finally, it emphasized that the principles laid down in General Assembly resolution 194 (III) were to be respected."
20. In their common reply, the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria emphasized their desire to see, first of all, the problem of the refugees solved on a basis of justice, equity and humanity in accordance with resolution 194 (III) and reiterated their position regarding the proposal for mixed committees. The Government of Israel did not reply to the substance of the letter of the Commission, based on the Commission's inability to indicate to the Israeli Government which Arab State or States might be ready to negotiate with Israel with a view to a final peace settlement.
21. In a further note to the parties, the Commission emphasized the inappropriateness of laying down prerequisite conditions for the initiation of a procedure conforming to the Assembly's resolution, especially when such conditions referred to principles laid down by that resolution. It stated that all these principles "must be respected and one of them cannot be singled out for special recognition without impairing the equilibrium of resolution 194 (III) as a whole. It added that the implementation of these principles gave rise to certain problems which should be dealt with in the mixed committees.
20. Despite further efforts by the Commission the positions of the parties did not change. In these circumstances, the Commission had to acknowledge that there were no grounds on which it could pursue its efforts to set up mixed committees.
III. The Question of Jerusalem and the Holy Places
23. By resolution 194 (III) the Commission was charged with certain specific directives with regard to Jerusalem and the Holy Places. With regard to Jerusalem, the Assembly resolved in paragraph 8 that:
"in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern, Shu'fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control …;
The Assembly instructed the Commission:
"to present to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly detailed proposals for a permanent international régime for the Jerusalem area which will provide for the maximum local autonomy for distinctive groups consistent with the special international status of the Jerusalem area …"
As regards the Holy Places, the Assembly resolved in paragraph 7:
"that the Holy Places – including Nazareth – religious buildings and sites in Palestine should be protected and free access to them assured, in accordance with existing rights and historical practice, that arrangements to this end should be under effective United Nations supervision; that the United Nations Conciliation Commission, in presenting to the fourth regular session of the General Assembly its detailed proposals for a permanent international régime for the territory of Jerusalem, should include recommendations concerning the Holy Places in that territory, that with regard to the Holy Places in the rest of Palestine the Commission should call upon the political authorities of the areas concerned to give appropriate formal guarantees as to the protection of the Holy Places and access to them and that these undertakings should be presented to the General Assembly for approval."
24. Before establishing contact with the Governments concerned, the Commission set up a special Committee on Jerusalem and its Holy Places, charged with the preparatory work necessary for the elaboration of the proposals and recommendations to be submitted to the Assembly. On the basis of instructions given to it by the Commission, the Committee began the formulation of a draft Instrument for the internationalization of Jerusalem and sought is acceptance by the parties directly concerned.
25. During the Commission's talks in Beirut with the Arab delegations, the latter were prepared to accept the principle of an international regime for the Jerusalem area, on condition that the United Nations should be able to guarantee the stability and permanence of such a régime.
26. The Government of Israel declared itself from the beginning unable to accept the establishment of an international regime for the city of Jerusalem) it did however, accept without reservation an international régime for, or the international control of, the Holy Places in the City.
27. On 1 September 1949, the Commission approved the draft text of an Instrument establishing an international régime for Jerusalem, and transmitted it to the Secretary- General for communication to the General Assembly, in accordance with paragraph 8 of resolution 194 (III).
IV. The refugee problem
28. The General Assembly, in paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III), resolved, in connexion with the Palestine refugees,
"that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours 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…"
The Assembly instructed the Conciliation Commission:
"to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations …"
29. The Commission sought to obtain the views of the Arab States on these questions during the Beirut talks. The Arab delegations agreed on:
(a) The necessity, both for humanitarian and political reasons, of giving absolute priority to the refugee question, over and above all other questions pending between the Arab States and Israel;
(b) The necessity that any solution of the problem must be contingent upon the acceptance by the Government of Israel of the principle established in paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III).
30. The Arab delegations also pointed out that the Government of Israel had not only not accepted that principle but had endeavoured to create a de facto situation which would render the practical application of that principle more difficult or even impossible. In this connexion they mentioned the complete absence of security for the Arabs in areas under Israeli control, in violation of guarantees provided for minorities under the partition plan, and the measures taken by the Israeli Government to block the bank accounts of the refugees and to liquidate their real and personal property.
31. The Commission recognized the validity of the Arab position contained in point (a) above. 3/ Visits to refugee camps gave members of the Commission an opportunity to see the deplorable material and moral situation of the refugees. Concerning point (b), the Commission also admitted the validity of the Arab position, but had certain reservations regarding the practical application of the principle of the return of the refugees. The Commission felt that the possibility that some refugees might not wish to return to their homes should be taken also into account; in some cases, the Arab Governments should agree to their resettlement. In some cases, it would also be necessary to envisage the return of Arab refugees according to general plans for resettlement under the supervision of the United Nations. The Commission also held that all refugees should be fully informed of the conditions under which they would return, in particular of the obligations and rights. The Commission was also of the opinion that the refugee problem could not be permanently solved unless other questions, notably the question of boundaries, were also solved.
32. The Commission also discussed the question of refugees during its interview of 7 April 1949 with the Prime Minister of Israel. The Commission explained the Arab point of view and asked if Israel accepted the principle of the return of the refugees to their homes.
33. The Prime Minister of Israel called attention to the passage in paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III) which states that refugees who wished to return to their homes should live at peace with their neighbours". In the Israeli view, this made the return of the refugees contingent on the establishment of peace; so long as the Arab States refused to make peace with Israel, Israel could not trust the Arab refugees. The Prime Minister did not exclude the repatriation of a limited number of refugees, but he made clear that his Government saw the real solution of the problem in the resettlement of the refugees in Arab States. He added that the whole issue should be examined and solved in general negotiations for the establishment of peace in Palestine.
34. Regarding repatriation, resettlement and rehabilitation of the refugees, the Arab delegations to the conference in Lausanne continued to hold the view that the Government of Israel must, as a first step, accept the principle set forth in resolution 194 (III) concerning the return of the refugees. The Commission did not succeed in achieving the acceptance of this principle by the Government of Israel.
35. Two specific proposals were submitted by the Israeli and Arab delegations respectively. Israel declared that if the Gaza area were incorporated in the State of Israel, the Government would accept as citizens of Israel the entire Arab population, inhabitants and refugees, of the area, provided international aid would be available for the resettlement of refugees. Israel could not submit proposals to the Commission concerning the number of refugees it would accept in the event that the Gaza area were not incorporated. The Arab delegations proposed to the Commission the immediate return of the refugees coming from the territories which were part of the Arab zone on the map attached to the Protocol of 12 May 1949 and currently under Israeli authority.
36. The Commission transmitted these proposals to the respective delegations. Neither the Arab nor Israeli delegation accepted each others proposals.
37. During the second phase of the Lausanne meetings, the Israeli delegation stated on 28 July 1949 that it agreed to placing the refugee problem as the first item on the agenda of joint negotiations and that on invitation of such negotiations it would convey to the Commission and to the Arab delegations the total number of refugees which the Israeli Government would be ready to repatriate in the context of a general and final peace settlement and as part of a comprehensive programme for the settlement of the refugee question.
38. On 3 August 1949, following the reply of the Arab delegations, the Israeli delegation declared that taking into account the security and economy of Israel, the Government was willing to accept an additional 100,000 Arab refugees beyond the total Arab population in Israel, and that these refugees would be settled in areas where they could not come in contact with possible enemies of Israel and where they would fit best in the over-all plan of Israel's economic development. This repatriation would form part of a general plan for resettlement of refugees which would be established by a special organ to be created by the United Nations.
39. The Commission considered these proposals unsatisfactory and merely communicated them unofficially to the Arab delegations for information.
40. On 15 August, the Arab delegations transmitted unofficially to the Commission their view that the Israeli proposal was contrary to resolution 194 (III) and to the Protocol of 12 May 1949. They argued that under the Protocol the Israeli proposal could concern only those territories allotted to Israel, and they protested against Israel's introduction of economic and strategic considerations into the refugee problem. If, however, Israel meant to apply its proposal only to those territories allotted to it under the Protocol of 12 May, the Arab delegations would be willing to see the proposal included as a basis for discussion. They also suggested territorial compensations for those refugees who might not wish to return.
41. On the same day, the Commission submitted to all delegations a memorandum which, inter alia, inquired whether they were prepared to sign a declaration containing the following provisions:
(a) The solution of the refugee problem should be sought in the repatriation of refugees in Israel-controlled territory, in the resettlement in Arab countries or in the area of Palestine not under Israeli control of those not repatriated. The repatriated refugees would become ipso facto citizens of Israel and no discrimination would be practiced against them either with regard to the civil and the political rights or to the obligations imposed upon them by the law of the land.
(b) In case an economic mission should be charged by the United Nations with the establishment of major works projects in the Middle East with a view to facilitating the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the Arab refugees, all the parties would facilitate the task of the mission and aid in the implementation of such solutions as the mission might propose.
(c) All the parties would specify that the above-mentioned conditions concerning the Arab refugees would not prejudice the rights reserved by the parties in connexion with the final settlement of the territorial question.
(d) Emergency aid to the refugees must be continued until technical and financial aid are allotted by the international community.
42. The Commission also asked whether the Governments were prepared to present a provisional estimate of the approximate number of refugees which they would accept.
43. On 29 August 1949, in reply to this memorandum, the Arab delegations stated that they were ready to study the implementation of that part of the memorandum which concerned repatriation of the refugees. They pointed out the need for international guarantees assuring just treatment to the refugees to be repatriated. The delegations of Jordan and Syria indicated that they would be able to receive refugees who might wish not to return to their homes. The delegation of Egypt declared that Egypt was densely populated and therefore unable to accept refugees. The Lebanese delegation made the same point with regard to Lebanon.
44. The Israeli delegation, in its reply of 31 August, stated that it would sign a declaration as suggested by the Commission, subject to the following reservations: that the solution of the refugee problem should be sought primarily in resettlement in Arab territories; that Israel would not bind itself in advance to implement the solutions proposed by the planned economic mission; that any repatriation to Israel would depend on international assistance and that such assistance would be extended to include the resettlement of Jewish refugees from Arab-controlled areas of Palestine.
45. In connexion with preliminary measures to preserve the rights, property and interests of the refugees, the Commission had charged the General Committee with the study of the following points raised by the Arab delegations on 18 May 1949: the return to their lands and homes of Arab owners of orange groves, together with the necessary workmen and technicians; the immediate unfreezing of Arab accounts in Israeli banks; the abrogation of the Absentee Property Act; the suspension of all measures of requisition and occupation of Arab houses and lands; the reuniting in their homes of refugees belonging to the same family; the assurance of freedom of worship and of respect of churches and mosques; the repatriation of religious personnel; the freeing of Wakf property; the assurance to refugees returning to their homes of the guarantees necessary to their security and liberty.
46. The General Committee formulated concrete proposals in connexion with orange groves, separated families and blocked Arab accounts. With regard to other points, the Israeli delegation informed the Committee that its Government was unable to abrogate the Absentee Act or to suspend measures of requisition of Arab immovable property. It then stated that freedom of worship and respect of churches and mosques were guaranteed throughout Israel and that further applications by religious personnel for repatriation would be examined.
47. On the question of blocked assets, the Government of Israel, on 27 June 1949, assented to discuss a reciprocal agreement with the Arabs, whereby Arab assets blocked in Israel and assets of residents of Israel blocked in Arab States could be mutually released in equal proportion. Following Arab acceptance of these conditions, a mixed committee of experts under neutral chairmanship, consisting of one Israeli, one Arab representing the four Arab States and the Principal Secretary of the Commission as chairman, was set up. In this Committee, the parties entered into direct contact for the first time. The Committee dealt at the outset with the procedure of unfreezing Arab assets in Israel, on which an agreement was reached, but since only one Arab State had taken steps to freeze accounts belonging to residents of Israel and the total sum involved was too small for reciprocal action, the proposed unfreezing could not be achieved by this means. Under these circumstances the Committee adopted a preliminary programme permitting the advance of limited sums to those having frozen bank accounts while the search for a general agreement continued.
48. On 23 August 1949, the Commission decided, pursuant to paragraph 12 of resolution 194 (III) to establish an Economic Survey Mission. The Mission was to examine the economic situation in the affected countries and to recommend an integrated programme with the following purposes: to enable the Governments concerned to promote measures which would help overcome the economic dislocation created by the hostilities, and to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation in order to reintegrate the refugees into the economic life of the area and to establish economic conditions conducive to the maintenance and stability in the area.
49. The final report of the Economic Survey Mission was considered by the Commission in January 1950. On the recommendation of the Mission, the General Assembly created, by its resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Mean East, to deal with the relief, resettlement and rehabilitation of the refugees.
50. The Commission paid special attention to the question of compensation in its meetings with the interested parties in August 1950. It informed the Governments of its intention to set up a special body to study this question and asked the Government of Israel whether it would be prepared to facilitate the task of such a body.
51. The Government of Israel affirmed its decision to pay compensation for land abandoned by Arab refugees, but it adhered to its view that this question could be usefully considered only within the framework of a general peace settlement between the Arab States and Israel. The Commission hoped to arrive at a solution whereby Israel could be included in the preparatory work for an agreement on this question.
V. The territorial question
52. Paragraph 6 of resolution 194 (III) instructed the Commission to "take steps to assist the governments and authorities concerned to achieve a final settlement of all questions outstanding between them."
53. Not until the signing of the Protocol of 12 May 1949 was a basis for the discussion of the territorial problem established.
54. On 21 May, the Arab delegations proposed that refugees coming from those areas which were defined as Arab areas on the map annexed to the Protocol, should be enabled to return to their homes forthwith.
55. The Commission transmitted this proposal to the Israeli delegation which rejected it as unrealistic. The Israeli delegation stated that its Government could not accept, as the criterion for a territorial settlement in the existing circumstances, a certain proportionate distribution of territory which had been agreed upon in 1947. On its part the Israeli delegation made several proposals of a territorial nature. It proposed that the political frontiers between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Lebanon, respectively, should be the same as those which separated the two countries from Palestine under the British Mandate. If these proposals were accepted and if Gaza were incorporated into Israel, it would accept as citizens all Arabs of that area, provided international aid for their resettlement would be made available. As regards the political frontier between Israel and Jordan, the Israeli delegation proposed to establish as boundary the line between the Israeli and Jordanian forces, subject to certain modifications in the interests of both parties, Israel had no ambitions regarding this central area of Palestine. Until the Arab parties had arrived at an agreement, Israel would continue to recognize Jordan as the
de facto military occupying Power.
56. Regarding the Israeli proposal concerning its frontier with Egypt and Lebanon, the Arab delegations informed the Commission on 30 May 1949 that these proposals constituted a flagrant violation of the terms of the Protocol of 12 May, and amounted to annexation rather than territorial adjustments.
57. On 15 August 1949, the Commission addressed a memorandum to the parties asking each delegation to state those territorial adjustments which it wished to make to the working document attached to the Protocol of 12 May.
58. In their reply of 29 August, the Arab delegations claimed all those territories which under the Protocol were allotted to the Arabs and which were at the moment under Israeli authority, and they also asked for the Negeb and Eastern Galilee in order to allow the resettlement in Palestine of a larger number of refugees.
59. The Israeli delegation stated on 31 August that in addition to those areas allotted to Israel on the map attached to the Protocol all other areas falling within the control and jurisdiction of Israel under the terms of the Armistice Agreement should be formally recognized as Israeli territory.
60. In reply to these observations the Commission pointed out on 5 September that all four armistice agreements contained a clause according to which the armistice demarcation line was not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary and was delineated without prejudice to rights and claims of either party to the armistice as regards final settlement of the Palestine question.
61. On 12 September, the Commission informed the parties that their proposals exceeded the limits of what might be considered "adjustments" of the map attached to the Protocol. It also requested new proposals.
62. While the Arab delegations reiterated their earlier position and asked the Commission to present its own suggestions, the Israeli delegation asserted its Government's title to the territory over which its authority was actually recognized, and that there could not be any concession with regard to the territory which constituted the State of Israel. The Israeli delegation further renewed its call for open direct peace negotiations and questioned any procedure involving specific proposals from the Commission.
VI. Supplementary report dated 23 October 1950
63. In the supplementary report (A/1367/Add.1) the Commission offered its own analysis of the situation. In conclusion, it stated that the situation required that the parties undertake the discussion of all questions outstanding between them and that the General Assembly should urge the parties to engage without delay in direct discussions, under the auspices of the United Nations and with its assistance, in order to arrive at a peaceful settlement. In these negotiations the refugee question should be given priority.
VII. The Paris Conference (13 September to 19 November 1951) 4/
64. During the Paris Conference, which the Commission had convened and which the four Arab States and Israel attended, the Commission engaged in active mediation and presented a comprehensive pattern of proposals, the text of which read as follows:
"In accordance with the obligations of States Members of the United Nations and of signatories to Armistice Agreements, the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and the Government of Israel solemnly affirm their intention and undertake to settle all differences, present or future, solely by resort to pacific procedures, refraining from any use of force or acts of hostility, with full respect for the right of each party to security and freedom from fear of attack, and by these means to promote the return of peace in Palestine.
"1. That an agreement be reached concerning war damages arising out of the hostilities of 1948, such an agreement to include, in the Commission's opinion, mutual cancellation of such claims by the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and the Government of Israel;
"2. That the Government of Israel agree to the repatriation of a specified number of Arab refugees in categories which can be integrated into the economy of the State of Israel and who wish to return and live in peace with their neighbours;
"3. That the Government of Israel accept the obligation to pay, as compensation for property abandoned by those refugees not repatriated, a global sum based upon the evaluation arrived at by the Commission's Refugee Office; that a payment plan, taking into consideration the Government of Israel's ability to pay, be set up by a special committee of economic and financial experts to be established by a United Nations trustee through whom payment of individual claims for compensation would be made;
"4. That the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and the Government of Israel agree upon the mutual release of all blocked bank accounts and to make them payable in pounds sterling;
"5. That the Government of Israel and the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria agree to consider, under United Nations auspices, and in the light of the experience gained during the past three years, the revision or amendment of the Armistice Agreements between them, especially with regard to the following questions:
"(a) Territorial adjustments, including demilitarized zones;
"(b) The creation of an international water authority to deal with the problems of the use of the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers and their tributaries, as well as the waters of Lake Tiberias;
"(c) The disposition of the Gaza strip;
"(d) The creation of a free port at Haifa;
"(e) Border regulations between Israel and her neighbours with special attention to the need for free access to the Holy Places in the Jerusalem area, including Bethlehem;
"(f) Health, narcotics and contraband control along the demarcation lines;
"(g) Arrangements which will facilitate the economic development of the area: resumption of communications and economic relations between Israel and her neighbours."
65. Despite intensive efforts by the Commission, the discussions at the Paris Conference proved no more successful than the previous attempts. Neither side was ready to accept proposals relating to the full implementation of the relevant General Assembly resolutions, in particular 194 (III) under which the Commission was operating. The Government of Israel was not prepared to implement the part of paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III) which provided for the return of the refugees who wished to return to their homes and to live at peace with their neighbours, at the earliest practicable date.
66. The Arab Governments, on the other hand, were not prepared fully to implement paragraph 5 of resolution 194 (III) which called for the final settlement of all questions outstanding between them and Israel.
VIII. Subsequent developments
67. In subsequent periodic reports submitted to the General Assembly since 1952, the Commission repeatedly drew attention to the fact that its efforts to advance matters towards the implementation of paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III) depended on substantial changes in the attitude of the parties involved.
68. It continued, however, to deal with the question of the blocked assets of Arab refugees. An agreement was reached in 1952 between the Commission and the Government of Israel for the complete release of Arab refugee accounts blocked in Israel. The final release operation in connexion with Barclay's Bank and the Ottoman Bank went into effect at the beginning of 1955. On 11 November 1959, the Commission was informed that the Government of Israel had decided to release blocked bank accounts in banks other than Barclay's Bank and the Ottoman Bank. On 7 November 1960, the Commission was notified that Barclay's Bank and the Government of Israel had agreed that the Bank would handle those additional claims by procedures similar to those employed in previous release operations. The Commission reported periodically the implementation of these release operations.
69. Another mayor concern of the Commission was a programme for the identification and valuation of Arab refugee property. On 11 May 1964, it reported to the General Assembly that this identification and valuation programme had been completed.
70. In 1961, the Commission appointed a Special Representative to explore the precise views of the parties as to what action might usefully be undertaken in the implementation of paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III) concerning the return of the refugees. On 21 August 1961, the Commission informed the Secretary-General that it had decided to appoint Mr. Joseph E. Johnson of the United States as its Special Representative. He undertook two missions to the area, visited refugee camps in the Arab countries and held talks with high officials in these countries and in Israel. In his first report submitted in November 1961, the Special Representative saw no immediate prospect for a solution of the refugee problem in Palestine, but he expressed his belief that it was worthwhile to continue the new effort of the Commission, because the parties had declared their willingness to consider the possibility of a step-by-step process without prejudice to positions on other related issues.
71. On 2 March 1962, the Commission reappointed Mr. Johnson, who undertook another mission to the Middle East and continued his consultations with the representatives of the parties in New York. But on 31 January 1963, the Special Representative resigned due to compelling personal commitments which the Commission accepted with deep regret, In his letter of resignation, he stated that paragraph 11 of resolution 194 (III) remained an appropriate basis for a solution of the problem of the Arab refugees.
72. Early in 1963, the United States had suggested that, as a member of the Commission, it might initiate a series of quiet talks with the parties concerned without pre-conditions as to the eventual solution. The Commission agreed to this approach. Subsequently, the United States informed the Commission that the talks had been useful and that all sides had shown goodwill and a desire to achieve progress on the refugee problem and that the talks were still in progress. The Commission took note of this information and requested that it continue to be kept informed of the progress of the talks. No further information on these talks was submitted by the Commission in its reports to the General Assembly.
73. In 1973 the Commission reported that, in response to formal requests from interested parties, and after consultation with the Legal Counsel of the United Nations, it had decided that these parties could have access to (a) copies of microfilms of land registers received from the Mandatory Government; (b) RP-1 forms (identification of property parcels including valuation figures); (c) the Index of Owners' Names (which provided means of direct reference to the holdings recorded in the name of each owner).
74. In September 1973 and May 1974, the Commission received from the delegations of Egypt and Jordan respectively requests to obtain, at their expense 9 copies of the above- mentioned documents. The Commission decided to agree to these requests with the understanding that the recipient Governments would continue to treat valuation figures contained therein on a confidential basis.
75. The Commission stated in its most recent progress report submitted on 30 September 1975 that it was encouraged by the efforts already made during the previous months towards a Middle East settlement which could lead to a just and lasting peace in the area. However, the circumstances governing the possibilities open to the Commission had remained essentially unchanged. The Commission hoped that recent developments would lead to further intensive efforts that would enable it to carry forward its work vigorously.
Document symbol: A/AC.183/4
Document Type: Document, Note, Summary statement
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), General Assembly, United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP)
Subject: History, Inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, Land, Palestine question, Refugees and displaced persons
Publication Date: 30/04/1976
Document Type: Document, Note, Summary statement
Document Sources: Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), General Assembly, United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP)
Subject: History, Inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, Land, Palestine question, Refugees and displaced persons
Publication Date: 30/04/1976