Haaretz: Israel, US discussed moving Palestine refugees out of Lebanon

Palestinian refugees hold Palestinian flags during a demonstration in Ain al-Hilweh Refugee Camp in Sidon, Lebanon, May 2021 (Ali Hankir - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  June 7, 2022

Transcripts from a White House meeting during the Israeli war on Lebanon in 1982 showed Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin pushed for the expulsion of Palestine refugees from Lebanon to Libya or Saudi Arabia, Haaretz revealed yesterday.

Journalist Ofer Aderet wrote in Haaretz that two weeks after the start of the war, Begin flew to Washington and met with US President Ronald Reagan, one of terms on his agenda was finding a “final solution” for the “problem” of Palestine refugees in Lebanon.

Aderet stated that the transcript of the meeting showed that Reagan firstly thought of integrating the refugees into Lebanese society and making them citizens.

However, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Yehuda Blum, said: “In Lebanon there is also a problem of the religious balance that could be upset by granting the refugees permanent status,” since most Palestinians are Muslims. “I could see why Lebanon would be reluctant to admit them permanently,” he said.

Begin then suggested the refugees be sent away. “Libya claims to be a friend of the PLO. It is a large country. So why should not they take people in? Iraq is a huge country with vast resources – water and oil – why should they not go there?” Begin says. “Iraq is empty, Syria is empty.”

“Resettlement is the normal and human way of resolving refugee problems,” he says.

Haaretz said the discussion took place on 21 June 1982 at the White House, adding that the English transcript was recently scanned and uploaded to the Israel State Archives site as part of a file of hundreds of pages of documents recording the conversations between Israel and the US about the First Lebanon War.