This document provides Palestinian leadership with a scientific approach of the issue which could support their position in the debate over the returns to Israel. These 'Terms of References' are meant to set a rational analysis supporting Palestinian demands for the return of refugees, in consideration of Israel’s past immigration history and absorption capacities.
TERMS OF REFERENCE
Israel’s capacity to absorb Palestinian refugees
In the scope of Permanent status negotiations between Israel and the PLO, it is expected that the question of the implementation of the right of return to Israel will be debated between the two parties. One of the possible scenarios may lead the negotiators to discuss the number of Palestinian returnees who would be authorized to repatriate during an agreed upon time period.
Historically, Israel has consistently opposed the principle of the return of Palestinian refugees and accepted only sporadically very limited number of repatriations. Israel’s most common argument for its refusal has been the preservation of its Jewish identity which, allegedly, could be threatened by massive returns.
However, according to applicable international law, all Palestinian refugees are entitled to return to their homes (in Israel). In fact, they also have the right to choose between repatriation to Israel and resettlement elsewhere. Therefore, it is the Palestinian interest to make sure that the repatriation option is a real one and that both parties agree on a substantial number of returns.
Additionally, it is our understanding that Israel’s absorption capacity based on its past immigrant absorption is at least 60,927 per year (average number of immigrants over 20 year period). They also have proven their capacity to absorb 1,016,511 million persons over a 10 year period (from 1990-2000).
Parameters of Study
Objective of the study
The objective of this piece of work is to provide the Palestinian leadership with a scientific approach of the issue which could support their position in the debate over the returns to Israel. In other words, the purpose of these Terms of Reference is to set a rational analysis supporting Palestinian demands for the return of refugees, in consideration of Israel’s past immigration history and absorption capacities.
In this regard, the study specifically aims at evaluating Israel’s capacity to absorb Palestinian returnees over the next 50 years on the basis of the soundest assumptions and most pertinent criteria.
We suggest that the external consultant set different hypotheses for the number of Palestinian returns during a time period of 10 to 15 years, bearing in mind Israel’s past immigration figure (60,000 immigrants a year).
The external consultant would be asked to analyze the evolution of Israel’s demography within the next 50 years for each hypothesis, with a special emphasis on the respective trends of the Jew and Arab components of the Israeli population.
It is also expected that the external consultant will take into consideration various scenarios in the scope of which the evolution of the percentage of Israel’s Arab population (Arab Israelis + Palestinian returnees) will be estimated during the 50 year time period. In order to establish these different scenarios, we suggest that the two following variables be considered:
the appropriate demographic growing rates for both Jewish and Arab populations:
a first hypothesis could take into account the respective applicable rates and consider that these rates will not substantially evolve;
a second hypothesis could be based on the assumption that these respective growing rates will progressively converge.
the evolution of the Jewish immigration during the time period: for instance, one could imagine three possible scenarios:
a suspension of Jewish immigration during 10 or 15 years followed by a resumption of this immigration on Israel’s historical bases;
a reduced Jewish immigration during this same period of time (30,000 immigrants a year) followed by a resumption on Israel’s historical bases;
a continuation of the Jewish immigration to Israel on historical bases (60,000 immigrants a year), irrespective of Palestinian returns;
The consultant is therefore requested to investigate and test various relevant scenarios on the basis of the assumption adopted.
The consultant must have a recognized expertise and experience in demography, with a special knowledge of the Israeli and Palestinian societies, and their respective demographic trends.
Deliverable & timeline
A draft study providing with the appropriate scenarios should be delivered to the NSU in word format by 20 April 2008.
This is expected to represent 10 days of work. The consultant will then be asked to respond to comments in a second draft to be delivered within a reasonable amount of time from receipt of the comments as determined by the consultant and the NSU.