A group of congressmen have recently requested the Department of State to release a document that concludes there are currently 30,000 bona-fide Palestinian refugees from the 1948-9 war with Israel—as against the 5.2 million refugees (and their descendants) claimed by the UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), the special international body whose sole responsibility is to provide these refugees with humanitarian aid. Adam Kredo reports:
Congressional officials familiar with the classified report . . . say the State Department continues to keep it secret in order not to disrupt billions of dollars in allocations to UNRWA. . . . Those familiar with the report’s contents [asserted that] the State Department is intentionally trying to keep the document secret not for national-security reasons but because of the political implications of its release. . . .
The report’s findings . . . could spur real progress in the peace process by redefining the parameters of the debate on Palestinian refugees’ right of return to the Jewish state.
“If we can solve the ‘right to return,’ if we can define refugees in such a way that it becomes possible, that’s an enormous step forward in the peace process,” said Representative Chris Stewart of Utah. “As long as you have a right of return for millions of people, there’s no way in the world the Israeli government would agree to or could agree to it, but if you could redefine refugees as a number that is manageable and fair and represents the reality, that becomes, instead of a stumbling block, it becomes a building block [for] trying to reinvigorate the peace process.” . . .
Other senior congressional sources familiar with the situation said UNRWA and its supporters are frightened to see the report released as this could affirm longstanding arguments against the aid organization.