Arab Delegations at Lausanne Accept Israel’s Offer on Refugee Repatriation

The four Arab delegations at the U.N.-sponsored peace parley here this week-end indicated that they would accept Israel’s offer to readmit some of the Palestine Arab refugees. The lead in accepting Israel’s proposal was taken by Egypt which, however, continues to insist on its territorial claims on the Gaza strip and a section of the southern Negev.

While the actual total number of refugees which Israel is prepared to accept has been kept a close secret, both from the Commission and from the Arabs, all parties involved think they have a good idea of the figures. Guesses range from 18 to 150 thousand, with the latter total favored in most quarters. The important thing, however, is no longer the precise number of refugees which Israel is prepared to take back, but that the Arabs and the Commission members now recognize that Israel means business and have stopped bargaining.

The effect of this realization was noted immediately in the action taken by the United States representatives here. At last it enabled the United States policy to play a decisive trump. A United States member of the Commission told the Arabs that they must now give up the pretense that all refugees would ultimately be sent back to their homes in Israel. Israel would and could take back part of the refugees and this the new state has now agreed to do. It was then up to the Arab states to declare equally clearly how many refugees they were willing to resettle in their respective countries, the American said.

This approach was made to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Transjordan. These four countries were told that provided they now cooperated in the solution of the refugee problem on these lines, the resettlement of the refugees would rank in United States eyes as “developments work” and as such would come under the head of immediate dollar aid. The same would apply to the resettlement of Arab refugees in Israel.

NEXT STORY