U. N. Ends Debate on Arab Refugee Issue; to Take Up Resolutions Today
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U. N. Ends Debate on Arab Refugee Issue; to Take Up Resolutions Today

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The 110-member Special Political Committee of the United Nations General Assembly concluded its three-week debate yesterday on the Arab refugee problem, following a prolonged address by Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, on Friday, and the introduction of a resolution by the United States on the refugee issue. Today the Committee will start discussion of the following three resolutions proposed during the debate:

1. A resolution sponsored by 21 nations calling for direct negotiations between Israel and the Arab countries.

2. A resolution offered by three pro-Arab Moslem countries asking for the appointment of a United Nations custodian over the property left in Israel by Arab refugees.

3. The U. S. resolution, suggesting a status quo by extending for two years the man-date of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugee, which expires next summer.

The American resolution, introduced by Carl T. Rowan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, altered the Washington Administration’s stand somewhat, by calling for a two-year extension–until June 30, 1965–of the expiring UNRWA mandate. Previously, Mr. Rowan had told the committee that the U. S. Government favored limiting UNRWA’s new mandate to only one year. Under Arab pressure, however, the U.S. accepted a two-year extension. The U. S. still prefers a year-to-year re-evaluation of UNRWA’s activities, Mr. Rowan said.

Mr. Rowan also told the committee he hoped that the sponsors of the two other resolutions before the body would withdraw their drafts, instead of pressing for votes. The United States had made it clear earlier that it opposes both these resolutions, finding the peace-talks call “untimely” and considering a UN property custodian inside Israel as an infringement on Israel’s sovereignty.


Mrs. Meir, in her address, dealt at length with both these resolutions. Starting with a statement detailing the development of the Arab refugee problem from its beginning

Noting that the speakers in the debate had made no attempt to help solve the refugee problem, but had only “proclaimed their theme: Israel must not exist,” the Israeli foreign policy chief stated:

“Even if the Arab Governments are as yet unwilling or incapable of understanding the spiritual and moral sources of the aspirations of the Jewish people for the renewal of its statehood, they will have to accept the fact that statehood will not be given up, even in the face of aggressive speeches or threats of force. “The Arab attitude,” she said, “breeds not peace, but war.”


She criticized Dr. John H. Davis, Commissioner General of UNRWA, for his annual report, presented to this very committee, which “specifically recommends the exclusion of all economic and development projects for the future of the refugees.” She referred to the fact that Dr. Davis had told the UN in his report that Arab “feelings” oppose any solution but “return” of the refugees to Israel or their compensation by Israel, calling that attitude by Davis as one that goes beyond his UN mandate.

“When Dr. Davis goes beyond the immediate scope of his mandate,” she said, “to tell us of the feelings of the whole Arab Middle East, would it not at least be proper for him to ascertain and report the views and feelings of the people of Israel on this subject as well? And, in describing Arab feelings, would it not be relevant to enlighten us about the spirit and intent in which the Arabs claim repatriation?”

The Israeli Foreign Minister illustrated that “spirit and intent” by quoting recent statements by Arab leaders calling for out-and-out war against Israel. She cited a declaration by Dr. Izzat Tannous, one of the refugee spokesmen who addressed the committee here last week, showing that he had called, in Beirut, for the raising of an army of at least 157,000 Arab refugees through “compulsory mobilization” for a war against Israel.

“I think we are entitled to ask,” she said, “whether the refugees so enlisted continue to be wards of UNRWA.” She cited an official UN report showing that refugee children are being educated to help “restore” their Palestinian “homeland” through “bloodshed.” “What would the attitude be,” she asked, “of any country represented here regarding the admission into its territory of people brought up in this spirit?”


After further attacks against the Davis report, Mrs. Meir rejected outright the Moslem-Arabic resolution calling for the naming of a UN property custodian in Israel. She reminded the committee that Israel many times offered to compensate refugees for whatever properties they had abandoned in Israel, but noted that such an accounting must include properties left in Arab lands by 500,000 Jews who emigrated to Israel, as well as property destroyed by Arab government in their war against Israel.

Coming to the 21-member resolution calling for direct peace negotiations, she said this draft “points at the very root” of the entire Arab-Israeli problem. “We have always taken the view,” she stated, “that all outstanding issues between nations, including, of course, those between us and our neighbors, should be discussed between us and our neighbors.”

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