U. N. Palestine Commission Reports on Israel’s Payments to Arabs

The Palestine Conciliation Commission in its 13th progress report to the United Nations Secretary General issued today admitted that it had had “no opportunity of exercising its general function of conciliation” during the past year. The Commission is available to both parties to assist them in reaching an agreement. However, it received no specific request from either side last year for such aid.

The main work which the Commission did during 1953 was in connection with the release of blocked Arab refugee accounts. The Government of Israel, in a unilateral move, agreed to release as a first installment the sum of 1,000,000 pounds–at the rate of one pound sterling for one pound Israel–for these accounts.

After some hitches, which were overcome, the Commission reported by the end of September the total number of applications filed had reached more than 3,000, of which over half had been approved for payment. It estimated that when all the applications have been processed the total amount of the payments will be approximately 750,000 pounds.

The Conciliation Commission expressed its gratification that “a solution of the difficulties encountered was apparently reached, and that payment on the first installment of blocked accounts had been resumed.”

The Commission said that it “considers that progress to date on the blocked accounts has been reasonably successful in view of the complex and unique nature of the operation.” It added that it was “convinced that the final liquidation of this question will remove a constant irritant in the relations between Israel and the Arab states.”

CITES DIFFICULTIES IN EVALUATING ARAB PROPERTY IN ISRAEL

As far as its other main task is concerned, the identification and evaluation of Arab property in Israel, the Commission said it had found that the records were so poor that they made the work difficult. The Commission had, therefore, appointed a former officer of the Mandatory administration, Sami Hadawi, a recognized authority on land values in Palestine, to make the investigations.

In connection with the Arab protest over Israel’s disposal of refugee property, the Commission said that it had received two letters from the Israeli representative. Both of them said that the action, which was an internal one, would not impair any legal claims of the Arab refugees and both reaffirmed the Government of Israel’s “policy in regard to payments of compensation for abandoned Arab land in Israel.”

The Commission’s report also recorded the fact that it had sent a letter of protest to Prime Minister Ben Gurion over the Israel Government’s action of moving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Jerusalem. The letter said that this action “would be incompatible” with the General Assembly resolution of Dec. 11, 1948.

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