It is complicated to determine the cost of rehabilitation. It is a process that demands careful and weighty analysis of many factors. The rehabilitation of refugees in host countries requires resources and infrastructure projects in order to improve the refugees’ lives, providing employment and education and freeing hundreds of thousands from their dependence on UNRWA. In the case of emigration to other lands, there is no need for major infrastructure projects, but each family must be granted a significant amount of money in order to enable them to successfully integrate into society.
Any arrangement should encompass the $6.5 billion granted to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority each year, plus the supplemental $7 billion donor countries promised in December 2007.
A number of studies have shown that a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem is financially feasible. Rex Brynen, a professor of Political Science at McGill University and an expert on Middle East politics and post-conflict reconstruction wrote a report entitled “Implementing a (Just) Solution to the Palestinian Refugee Issue: Estimating the Financial Costs.” Based on unpublished analysis by the World Bank from the years 2000-2003, Brynen estimated the costs of relocation, returnee absorption, third-country resettlement, closing UNRWA, camp improvement/refugee development, refugee compensation and host country compensation.
The results of his research is that a ten-year project, combining all different expenses listed above, will cost between $21 to $30 billion, bringing the Palestinian refugee problem to an end once and for all.
It sounds expensive, but this sum is equal to 4 or 5 years of regular funding – funding that has only kept the problem alive.
The world’s yearly contributions to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority, along with contributions from the World Bank and Israel, should more than cover the costs.
If UNRWA is not dismantled, and the refugee problem is not solved, the world will spend over $60 billion on the Palestinians in the next ten years.
Even with Brynen’s most generous estimate, solving the refugee problem will cost the world half of what it is currently spending to maintain the refugee problem and perpetuate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Yoav Sorek is manager of The Israeli Initiative. Find ot more: www.israelinitiative.com