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UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 562nd MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Monday, 30 September 2002, at 3 p.m.
Chairman : Mr. YIMER (Ethiopia)
GENERAL DEBATE (continued)
GENERAL DEBATE (agenda item 4) (continued)
85. Mr. LEVY (Israel), speaking in exercise of the right of reply, refuted the interpretation by the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States of the refugee problem that had arisen following the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1947. Whereas Israel had absorbed the massive flow of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the members of the League of Arab States had chosen to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem for political ends. It was a matter of record that the Palestinian Authority had rejected the Israeli proposals at peace negotiations in Camp David in 2000, at which the Palestinian refugee issue had been high on the agenda, as well as the bridging proposals presented later by the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, thereby making a conscious choice to embark upon a path of violence rather than to conclude negotiations. When the Israeli army had been compelled to enter refugee camps, its intention had not been to target innocent refugees, but to dismantle bases of terror established by militant groups abusing the protective humanitarian shield around the camps. The refugee problem would be resolved only by negotiations, which could restart once the violence had ceased.
86. For the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, the “right of return” was a euphemistic reference not only to the return of Palestinian refugees to an eventual Palestinian State, but also to a neighbouring State. Was it reasonable to expect that many hundreds of thousands of such refugees would be allowed to return within the borders of the State of Israel?