Israel Releases Property of Arab Citizens; Relaxes Policy Toward 23,000 Infiltrees

Three major developments in Israel’s policy toward its Arab population were announced here this week-end simultaneously with the release of a report by the Premier’s Office detailing the condition of the Jewish State’s Arab minority of 170,000 persons. The three new developments are:

1. The Custodian of Absentee Property has decided to release the property of Arabs who are citizens of Israel. The Custodian is prepared to release upon application all movable property and to consider the release of urban real property as well as unfreeze all Arab bank accounts.

2. The Government has permitted some 23,000 Arab infiltrees to remain permanently in this country. In addition, it is known that 18,000 infiltrees reside illegally in Arab villages.

3. The Government has agreed — in conferences between Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett and United Nations Truce Supervisor Lt. Gen. William E. Riley– on procedures for the return to their homes of Arabs evacuated from the demilitarized zone of the Huleh region some months ago during Syrian-Israel fighting. The movement is expected to be concluded this week.

The Premier’s Office report states that the 170,000 Arabs in Israel include 32,000 living in cities and towns, 120,000 in rural communities and 18,000 nomads. It states that in carrying out the pledge contained in the Israel Declaration of Independence guaranteeing the Arabs political equality, the government has published its Official Gazette in Hebrew and Arabic, inscribed its currency in both languages and sponsors regular Arabic radio broadcasts and has extended the franchise to the Arab population.

Over 31,000 Arabs voted in Israel’s first general elections and 70,000 are expected to participate this month in the Parliamentary balloting. The report reveals that the Ministry of Interior is sponsoring self-government in Arab villages, while the Ministry of Culture is attempting to raise the standard of living of the minority population and has a budget of 100,000 pounds for this purpose. The report says that 96 Arab villages hold 250,000 dunams of land.

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