Top Lebanese cleric wants ‘final solution’ for Palestinian refugees

Lebanon can no longer accept the presence of Palestinian refugees as self evident because doing so was undermining the unity of the population, according to Patriarch Cardinal Boutros al-Rahi.

By World Israel News Staff

Lebanon’s top Maronite cleric has called to deport and resettle the country’s Palestinian refugees, saying that the poverty-stricken country must put its own interests first.

Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi further claimed that the world no longer recognized the merit of the so-called Palestinian “right of return.”

“We are with you, dear brothers, and we call on the international community to relieve Lebanon, which is exhausted economically and living difficultly, by finding a final solution to the presence of Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians on Lebanese soil,” al-Rahi said on Saturday, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“It cannot be accepted that many parties, especially at the international level, consider refugees and displaced persons as a reality that must be adapted to the point of integration, settlement and naturalization,” the patriarch said.

According to the patriarch, Lebanon can no longer accept the presence of Palestinian refugees as self evident because doing so was undermining the unity of the population.

“How can these countries claim their concern for Lebanon’s independence and stability, and work to undermine its unity?” al-Rahi asked.

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He called on the Lebanese government to coordinate resettling Palestinian refugees in countries that are “capable of accommodating them demographically and ensuring a dignified human and social life for them,” the report said.

According to al-Rahi, “everyone” has disavowed the “right of return,” not least of all Israel which is “displacing” Palestinians on a “daily basis.”

The “right of return” is a core Palestinian demand for solving the conflict that would see Palestinian refugees and their descendants — who now number more than 6 million — return to Israel to their ancestral homes.

“The people of Palestine were not created to live in a camp, but rather in a society that provides them with housing, education, work and well-being,” said al-Rahi.

The patriarch also called for displaced Syrians in Lebanon to return to Syria and rebuild their homeland.

Some 180,000 Palestinian refugees live in Lebanon, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Palestinians in Lebanon are second class citizens who are not allowed to work in many professions and barred from obtaining citizenship. Palestinian refugee camps suffer from extreme overcrowding and poverty.

Lebanon is reeling from an economic crisis that has left much of its population mired in poverty, with no access to electricity or health care. UN Special Rapporteur on human rights Olivier De Schutter earlier this year estimated that four out of five Lebanese have been plunged into poverty, rendering the country a “failing state.”