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Palestinians as ‘strategic’ refugees

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Refugees are generally not perceived as a ‘strategic’ issue: humanitarian, economic or tactical security concerns come to mind when thinking of people displaced by conflict, but not strategic ones. This is different in the case of Israel and the Palestinians. The refugee question is not only one of the top three remaining issues obstructing the way to peace (along with the status of Jerusalem and borders); it is also the most difficult one to solve.

Contrary to common belief, the refugee issue is ultimately not about legal, financial or demographic dimensions: it is about each people’s narrative of existence and identity, and is therefore the one issue where compromises are particularly difficult, if not impossible, to reach. Yet understanding what the refugee issue really stands for is crucial if there is to be any hope of resolving the conflict.