• The Arab Refugee issue remains one of the most crucial issues to be resolved in order for any peace process to be successful[1]
  • The RWG was created as a practical way to handle Palestinian refugees. It was supposed to come up with practical solutions for the consideration of the bilateral negotiations[2]
  • Quadrilateral committee composed of Israel, PLO, Egypt and Jordanmet to discuss the Displaced Persons resulting from the 1967 war[3]
  • RWG meetings have been devoted to the amelioration of the living conditions of Palestinian refugees resulting from the 1948 war.
  • Tasks were divided among world powers (i.e., EU – planned development of social and economic infrastructure)[4]
  • In preparation for bilateral talks between Israel and Palestine in Madrid in 1992, Canada was chosen as the chair of the RWG due to its perceived neutrality towards Arab-Israeli situation, regarding the settlement of the refugee issue[5]
  • From 1992-2000 Canada was directly involved in the multilateral aspect of the peace process
  • “RWG focused on seven main themes, each with a lead country or “shepherd”. The themes were Databases (the shepherd for which is Norway), Family Reunification (France), Human Resources Development (US), Job Creation and Vocational Training (US), Public Health (Italy), Child Welfare ( Sweden) and Economic and Social Infrastructure (the European Union). In cooperation with the regional parties, the shepherds were responsible for defining needs, developing responses and mobilizing required resources. During the plenary session, each shepherd presented a report on the progress achieved under their theme since the last plenary.
  • There were a total of eight plenary sessions of the RWG”:[6]
  • Moscow, January 1992
  • Ottawa, May 1992
  • Ottawa, November 1992
  • Oslo, May 1993
  • Tunis, October 1993
  • Cairo, May 1994
  • Antalya, December 1994
  • Geneva, December 1995
  • Israel boycotted the first meeting in Ottawa in May 1992[7]
  • In 1997, the Arab League called for a boycott of the multilaterals in protest over Israeli policies. However, lower-level work by the RWG continued. This ended, however, with the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000, which led to a suspension of all multilateral track activities.[8]
  • Canada was a long-time contributor to UNRWA and participated in every UN Peacekeeping force in the Middle East
  • The role of RWG evolved as improving the conditions of the refugees of the 1948/1967 wars without “prejudice to their rights and future status”
  • RWG’s main goal was to improve the lives of refugees and mobilizing financial resources was critical to make this possible.
  • Canada was mandated to work on all the refugees from these wars, but ended up focusing primarily on fate of Palestinian refugees
  • First immediate task of the RWG was to conduct surveys on the region[9]
  • RWG faced obstacles between its founding in 1992 and 1995:[10]
    • Shortage of funding to meet urgent humanitarian crisis of the refugees outside the West Bank & Gaza
    • Committee never developed a cohesive structure to allow maximum effectiveness in carrying out its projects
    • The Chair of the RWG failed to gain influence outside the RWG structure and was never accorded a seat on the quadrilateral refugee committee
    • RWG was always affected by tension among the bilateral negotiators, and the political gap between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiations has been an obstacle. Palestinian position on refugees has never diverged – right of return (i.e., that refugees and their descendants should be able to return to the areas they were living at at the time they were forced to flee) or compensation for refugees. Israeli position – emphasized the need to work toward resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees (i.e., which includes improved living conditions). Israel does not accept that refugees can return to Israel, but does allow that they can return to the territories that would eventually become Palestine.[11]
  • Work of RWG ended in 1994 & very little was accomplished & very little concrete political progress[12]
  • One brief result from its lengthy deliberations: the subject of improving the refugees’ conditions in their current areas of residence[13]
  • Andrew Robinson – Canadian Chair of RWG – brokered an agreement to allow the return of 6,000 individuals/year based on a quota of 2,000 family reunifications/year. They would be from Jordan settled in the West Bank & Gaza, not Israel [14]
  • Canada’s role was viewed positively by the international community (i.e., the US) – helping to maintain its reputation as an effective practitioner of negotiation, dialogue and diplomacy. The way in which Canada is viewed by the international community is critical in that it has a significant impact in the amount of clout Canada has regarding international issues.[15]
  • Canada is not a world superpower, but still has a role to play in the Middle East peace process[16]
  • Canada can maintain its capacity to act as an appropriate intermediary
  • Working towards a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can benefit Canada and work in its best interest (i.e., having good relations with Arab nations may allow Canada to develop partners to fight ISIS extremism more effectively and also prevent root causes of extremism). In playing an active role within Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Canada is effectively fostering goodwill within the Arab world. [17]
  • If Canada works to restart the RWG talks, it could have stabilizing effect on the region[18]

Principles for Canada:

  • Allocate resources to renew discussion of refugee issues
  • Convene necessary officials from Israel, the PA and donor nations…on a humanitarian basis..
  • Show that Candada is ready to make significant efforts toward resolution of the Arab refugee situation, which has festered since 1949.
  • Canada can use its diplomatic tools and institutional knowledge, while recognizing its limits and objectives, to solve the refugee issue
  • Canada can become part of an overall solution, even if only for this aspect of Middle East Negotiatons.

As RWG gavel holder, Canada can encourage a UNRWA POLICY REFORM PLAN:

  1. Demand an audit of donor funds that flow to UNRWA. This would address widespread documented reports of wasted resources, duplicity of services and the undesired flow of cash to Gaza-based terror groups, which gained control over UNRWA operations in Gaza over the past 18 years.
    http://israelbehindthenews.com/unrwa-gaza-terrorist-organizations-cooperative- relationship/11632/
  1. Introduce UNHCR standards to UNRWA, to advance the resettlement of Arab refugees, after 67 years. Current UNRWA policy is that refugee resettlement would interfere with the “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948.
  1. Cancel the new UNRWA curriculum, which incorporate principles of Jihad, martyrdom and he right of return by force of arms, in UN schools which are supposed to promote the UNRWA slogan of “Peace Starts Here”
    http://israelbehindthenews.com/see-pa-textbook-incitement-for-yourself-funded-by- the-us-taxpayer/14375/
  1. Cease paramilitary training in all UNRWA schools. Should UNRWA, as a UN agency, not demonstrate a renewed commitment to UN principles to “peace education”?
  1. Insist that UNRWA dismiss employees affiliated with Hamas, in accordance with laws on the books in Canada, other western nations, and even in the UN, which forbid aid to an agency that employs members of a terrorist organization.
    http://israelbehindthenews.com/israel-and-jews-in-the-newest- palestinian-authority-pa-schoolbooks-taught-in-pa-and-unrwa-schools-de-legitimization-demonization-advocacy-of- violent-struggle-rather-than-peace-of- jihad-martyrdo/14346/
    and http://israelbehindthenews.com/ library/pdfs/UNRWA-SCHOOLS-IN-GAZA.pdf
  1. Since UNRWA has hired a “youth ambassador”, Mohammad Assaf, to travel the world and encourage insurrection and violence. Perhaps this is the time UNRWA to reconsider the honor that it gives to Assaf to wander out of UNRWA facilities in Gaza and encourage violence. After all, the UNRWA motto is PEACE STARTS HERE.
    http://unrwa-monitor.com/articles/israel-resource-review/are-the-lyrics-of- the-unrwa-youth- ambassador-not- lethal/

[1] Derek Mackay. The Evolution of Canadian Diplomacy towards the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. July 23, 2015 (thesis paper, University of Ottawa).

[2] Ghada Hashem Talhami, Palestinian Refugees: Pawns to Political Actors, Nova Publishers, 2003. Pp 166-169

[3] Talhami @ p. 167

[4] Talhami @ p. 167

[5] Talhami @ p. 167

[6] http://prrn.mcgill.ca/background/background_refugees.htm

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Mackay @ p. 3; See also Talhami @ p. 167.

[10] Talhami @ p. 168

[11] Mackay @ p. 31

[12] Talhami @ p. 169

[13] Talhami @ p. 169

[14] Talhami @ p. 169

[15] Mackay @ p. 32, 38

[16] Mackay @ p. 38

[17] Mackay @ 39

[18] Mackay @ p. 39