Israel Government’s Policy on Arab Refugees Clarified by Knesset Debate

Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, today clarified in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, the stand of the Government on the Arab refugee problem, which was a major issue at the United Nations General Assembly last month. She reiterated that the Israel Government considers the resettlement of the Arab refugees in Arab lands as the only solution to the problem. She also said that the Israel Government opposes giving the refugees a “free” choice between returning to Israel or resettlement in Arab countries.

The Foreign Minister made her statement during a debate in the Knesset where the opposition parties criticized the voting of the Israel delegation on the Arab refugee issue at the UN General Assembly. Three opposition motions–presented by Herut, Mapam and the Liberal Party–calling for a full-scale debate on Israel’s voting on the issue at the UN, were defeated by a vote of 37 to 25.

The opposition parties contended that the Israel delegation had accepted a United States proposal, giving the refugees “free choice” between being repatriated to Israel or settlement in Arab lands. They said this vote by Israel’s delegation went counter to a Knesset resolution, adopted November 6, laying down a policy for insisting only on refugee resettlement in Arab lands.

Mrs. Meir told the Knesset that her delegation voted against the American proposal when the clause calling for “free” choice came up for a separate ballot; However, she maintained, the delegation had no alternative to accepting the American resolution when the draft as a whole was put to a vote, because the U.S. resolution “contained other, positive features.”

The Foreign Minister insisted the Knesset resolution of November was not violated. She declared the U.S. resolution provided that it is up to Israel to decide “if and who and when” an Arab refugee is to be admitted, even under “free” choice. The Government, she said, never took the stand that “not a single refugee” is to be admitted. She said Israel is also safeguarded by the fact that it still insists that any refugee admitted must agree, under an old UN resolution, “to live at peace” under Israeli rule.

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