White House Denies President Truman is Pressing Israel to Admit Arab Refugees

The White House denied today to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports emanating from Lausanne that President Truman had written a letter to the Israeli Government asking for the admission of a substantial number of Arab refugees to the Jewish state. A White House spokesman emphasized that the problem was being handled through regular diplomatic channels.

It became clear here today that the new U.S. policy of insisting that Israel absorb large numbers of Arab refugees has so far been formulated without the participation of President Truman. At the same time it was not clear to what extent the President had been advised of the shift in State Department tactics, or whether he approved of this shift.

Details of requests presented by U.S. diplomatic representatives to the Government of Israel for the readmission of Arab refugees were learned here today. It was indicated that the State Department agrees that all the Arab refugees cannot be admitted into Israel. However, a tentative American conclusion is that perhaps 200,000 of them might eventually be returned to the Jewish state and the rest absorbed in neighboring countries.

The requests presented by the U.S. diplomats to Israel, it was reported here today, were made “in firm language” by U.S. Ambassador James G. McDonald in Tel Aviv, as well as by Mark Ethridge, the American representative on the U.N. Palestine Conciliation Commission who is leaving his post within a few days. They are reported to have emphasized:

1. That Israel has not lived up to the resolution of the U.N. General Assembly calling for the repatriation of the refugees as soon as practicable.

2. That sympathetic action by Israel is needed now to break the stalemate in the U.N.-sponsored Arab-Israeli peace talks at Lausanne.

3. That Israel’s refusal to admit a reasonable number of Arab refugees constitutes a stumbling block to a general settlement in the Middle East and is also hampering the Israeli-Syrian armistice talks.

It is understood that the U.S. Government has suggested that the best start For Israel to make in the direction of repatriation of Arab refugees would be to re-unite Arabs who fled Palestine with their families who remained behind. Israeli officials, it is learned, reiterated that the refugee question cannot be discussed except as a part of the final peace settlement.

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