Menu JTA Search

Arabs Face Showdown at U.N. Today on Request for ‘custodian’ in Israel

The General Assembly’s Special Political Committee, which for a week has been embroiled in an Arab drive to impose a “custodian” over alleged Arab refugee property in Israel, faces a showdown on the issue here tomorrow. Lined up against the Arab bloc, which is supported by other Moslem members and backed by the Soviet group, are the United States, many other Western and Latin American delegations, and Israel.

Arthur Lourie, Israel’s acting permanent representative here, told the committee, Friday, that Israel is still ready to compensate Arab refugees under certain conditions. He reiterated Israel’s readiness to enter into overall peace negotiations with the Arabs, and that all problems affecting the Arab refugees could be discussed during such negotiations. He warned, however, that, while the Israeli compensation offer “still holds good,” Israel would have to reconsider such an offer if the resolution pushed by the Arabs should be adopted by the full Assembly.

Pending before the committee are three drafts. One is a resolution introduced by five Moslem, non-Arab states, calling upon the next Assembly to authorize a property “custodian,” and also putting pressure upon the Palestine Conciliation Commission to have Arab refugees “repatriated” to Israel, The United States has amended that draft so as to virtually kill the Arab pressures. The U.S. proposed that all Arab refugee problems be reviewed by the Assembly next fall. Iraq and Libya have introduced sub-amendments, killing the American proposals.

Tomorrow’s meeting will show whether the Arab-Moslem-Soviet forces have enough votes to put through their moves. It was pointed out today that, even if the Arab moves are voted by a simple majority in the committee, it is not certain the moves will prevail in the General Assembly itself, where a two-thirds majority is required for adoption of such a resolution.

Mr. Lourie, in his address, tore apart the Arab claims that the refugees have any property in Israel worthy of a custodian, insisting at the same time that appointment of such custodian would be considered by Israel as an impingement on its own sovereignty. He reminded the committee that about a half million Jewish refugees from Arab lands are now residing in Israel, having left all of their property in Arab lands.

The Israeli, addressing himself often to African delegates, many of whom had not been to familiar with the long-standing Arab-Israeli disputes, showed that the drive to force the PCC to “repatriate” Arab refugees ignores earlier UN resolutions calling for “resettlement and rehabilitation” of Arab refugees. He showed that the UN policy over the years has been that “resettlement is held up as an alternative to repatriation, ” and explained that, for political reasons, the Arab delegations ignore that alternative.

The only reason for the resolutions put forth by the Arabs and their backers, Mr. Lourie said, is because “they are not concerned with the solution of the problem of the refugees, but with the dissolution of Israel. That, “he asserted, “is an enterprise in which they will not get our cooperation. The question is whether the Arabs want peace or not. If it is peace–we are ready. “

NEXT STORY