Israel Parliament Reiterates ‘non-return’ Principle on Arab Refugees

After two days of intensive debate on Israel’s general foreign policy, with heavy emphasis on the Arab refugee problem, Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, voted overwhelmingly here tonight a reaffirmation of the policy of the “non-return” of the refugees to Israeli territory.

The resolution, adopted by a vote of 63-11, with 13 abstentions, had been sparked by a detailed report given the Knesset yesterday by Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, and amounted to a rejection of the so-called “Johnson Plan” which would give the refugees a choice between “return” to Israel and acceptance of compensation by Israel. The plan, although never put forward formally, had been proposed by Dr. Joseph E. Johnson, the UN Palestine Conciliation Commission’s special Mid-East envoy.

Mrs. Meir had not mentioned the Johnson proposal specifically, and was criticized on the floor of the Knesset for that omission, However, she had reminded the House of its own resolution, adopted just a year ago, rejecting the principle of refugee “return” and asserting that “the only solution to the problem is their (the refugees) settlement in Arab lands.”

One of the critics was Menahem Beigin, leader of Herut. He was joined by Yaacov Hazan of Mapam who said it was not enough to reject the Johnson plan. He said Israel must initiate a peace plan and proclaim again and again its readiness to accept a certain agreed number of refugees as part of a general peace agreement.

The Herut leader also criticized what he termed the ‘Government’s “Germanophile” policy which he called a “paradox.” He said that while Israel was selling West Germany arms on security grounds, it was precisely in the security area that Germany had injured Israel as no other nation had. He said it was impossible that West German authorities did not know what their missile experts were doing in Egypt and he asked why the Government had not sought to arouse world opinion against West German missile help to Egypt “since a timely information campaign might have nipped the matter in the bud.”

He also criticized Israel’s vote in the General Assembly for the resolution condemning South Africa for its racist apartheid policies. He offered the criticism not on the issue of racial discrimination “which Israel abhors” but on grounds that Israel should not support a “double standard” and “hypocrisy” at the United Nations. He asserted that there was slavery in Yemen but no one proposed sanctions against Yemen and those voting against South Africa included dozens of totalitarian countries.

The Liberal party deputies generally supported Mrs. Meir’s statement as did the National Religious party. Agudat Israel deputies said Israel should have abstained on the UN vote with an explanation to the African countries that just as they showed solidarity with one another, so must Israel show solidarity with South African Jewry.

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