JERUSALEM (Aug. 4)
Israel has absorbed 50, 000 Arab refugees since the original offer made several years ago to accept 100, 000 and any additional resettlement must await the permanent settlement of the majority of the remaining refugees in Arab countries, Israeli sources said today. This Israeli position was expected to be stated when the refugee problem is raised in the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly in September, these sources said.
It was learned meanwhile that the United States had asked Henry R. Labouisse, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Administration, to study the possibilities of refugee resettlement in Iraq and that Mr. Labouisse refused, saying he did not want to create Arab hostility. Mr. Labouisse recently visited Washington in a futile bid for increased allocations for UNRWA, the Eisenhower Administration promising only to continue its 80 per cent share.
The Israeli sources said they expected strong pressure on Israel, during forthcoming General Assembly discussion on the UNWRA budget, to agree to give the Arab refugees free choice to return to Israel or resettle in Arab countries. This is an approach understood to be strongly favored by the United States.
The U.S. is reported here to believe that if it were made clear to the refugees that a return to Israel means acceptance of unconditional loyalty to Israel and agreement to be resettled like all other refugees, rather than a return to their former homes, very few of the Arab refugees would choose to return, the majority accepting resettlement in Arab countries. Israeli officials, however, believe that the Arab governments, for political reasons, would exert such pressure on the refugees that most of them would be forced to choose repatriation to Israel.
The Israeli sources also disclosed that Israel plans to explain in the General Assembly that any additional acceptance of refugees must be the final stage in a general resettlement plan. If such resettlement were the first stage, the natural increase among the remaining refugees would outbalance whatever numbers were absorbed by Israel, they said.
It was also pointed out that if resettlement in Israel went on simultaneously with settlement in Arab countries, the effect of free choice would actually be to prevent settlement in the Arab lands.