UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (Dec. 17)
A comprehensive statement of Israel’s position concerning the Arab refugee problem, made here last Friday by Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, is now before the General Assembly’s Special Political Committee, which is scheduled to conclude the long, bitter refugee debate tomorrow night.
Yordan Tchoban, of Bulgaria, chairman of the committee, announced today that he will hold three sessions of the group tomorrow–morning, afternoon and evening. There were indications that, if necessary, the evening meeting might run through the night, so that the committee could be ready to report whatever decisions it makes to a plenary session of the Assembly on Tuesday.
After a series of anti-Israeli harangues by the Arab delegations over a two-week period, with answers by Israel and staunch insistence on Arab-Israeli peace negotiations by a number of members, led by Africans, Mrs. Meir summarized the Israel Government’s general position in these six points:
“1. Israel accepted the 1947 Palestine Partition plan of the United Nations in 1947, while the Arabs rejected it. There would be peace and cooperation in the area if the Arab states had accepted the compromise agreed to by Israel in 1947.
“2. The Arab States instead decided to launch war against Israel. The Arab refugee problem arose as a consequence of this war. Those responsible for that war are responsible for the existence of the refugee problem.
“3. About 550,000 Arabs left the territory which is now Israel. A similar number of Jewish refugees from the Arab countries have since been integrated in Israel. There has thus been a de facto exchange of population.
“4. No United Nations resolution demands immediate, total and unconditional repatriation of refugees into Israel; On the other hand, there are United Nations resolutions calling for negotiations on the peaceful settlement of all outstanding questions between Israel and the Arab States.
“5. Israel believes that the future of the Arab refugees lies in their resettlement in the Arab countries within the framework of the economic development of the Middle East.
“6. Israel stands by its readiness to pay compensation for property abandoned by the refugees, even before a general peace settlement is concluded, provided these funds are used for the overall solution of the problem. Israel will demand compensation for property of its citizens that was confiscated by the Arab Governments.”
Mrs. Meir told the committee that Israel “welcomes” one of the two resolutions before the group–a draft co-sponsored by eight African states, six from Latin America, and The Netherlands representing various West Europeans, calling for direct peace talks between the Arab states and Israel on all issues at dispute, including the refugee problem.
Mrs. Meir expressed opposition to the harsh criticism voiced against the Palestine Conciliation Commission, chiefly by the Arab delegations, as well as to the proposal to alter the commission’s composition. “The will to conciliate,” she said, “is completely absent on the Arab side. That alone is what matters, and that is where the change is needed.”
“We believe,” she told the committee, “that the solution of the problem of the Arab refugees lies in the resettlement of the refugees in the Arab countries. This attitude of ours is not new and it has been recently reiterated by the Government of Israel in the Knesset, and was approved by a large majority. At the same time, we have never said that not a single refugee will ever in any circumstances be allowed to enter Israel. I have already mentioned how, since 1949, about 40,000 refugees did in fact return.”