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Knesset Opens Debate on U.N. Resolution on Arab Refugees

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Opposition party deputies charged today, during Parliamentary debate on the Arab refugee problem, that developments at the recent United Nations discussion of the issue represented a “great failure” for Israel. The debate began today following a report yesterday by Mrs. Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, on the developments in the Special Political Committee of the UN General Assembly, when a United States-sponsored resolution two weeks ago was approved 83 to one, Israel casting the lone negative vote.

Israel had termed the resolution “unacceptable” in that it revived a 1948 resolution calling for repatriation or compensation for the refugees with no reference to the possibility of their resettlement in the Arab host countries. Israel took the position during the debate of expressing willingness to negotiate with the Arab countries on the refugee issue separately.

ISRAEL OFFER FOR TALKS ON REFUGEES CRITICIZED AND DEFENDED

Menachem Beigin, leader of the Herut party, accused the Government in the Knesset today of violating a Knesset 1961 resolution which affirmed that the only solution of the refugee problem was resettlement in Arab countries. He said the “switch” from a call for direct Israel-Arab talks on a peace settlement to one for talks on the refugees separately was “a grave one” He asserted that under that proposal, Israel “obviously” would not go to the negotiating table with nothing to offer.

Ishar Harari of the Liberal party said that to talk only about the refugees was “just what the Arabs want” but Israel’s strongest card, he stressed, was–no refugee talks as long as the Arab States were unprepared to live at peace with Israel. He added that the Israel Government should urge the United States to put an end to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the refugees and that its contributions should go direct to the host countries, thus shifting responsibility for the refugees from the United Nations to the Arab countries.

David Hacohen of Mapai said that the Arab States wanted to destroy Israel by returning the refugees and that the identification of the refugee delegation at the UN with the Arab States proved that the refugees did not deserve to return. He said that Israel should intensify its information activities in the United States and shift its propaganda emphasis from the UN to world capitals.

Moshe Unna of the National Religious party welcomed “under the circumstances” the change in the pro-Israel resolution draft of general talks to refugee talks. He charged the United States with responsibility during the past three years for prevention of adoption of resolutions for direct Israel-Arab talks. He said that American action had strengthened Arab intransigence.

Itzhak Barzilay of Mapam said that Israel-Arab talks on refugees would “break the ice.” He urged the Israel Government to declare readiness to accept back a certain number of refugees. Moshe Sneh of the Communist party said that recognition of the refugee “right” to return was the way to win recognition of Israel by the Arab States. Menachem Porush of Agudat Israel argued that it would be dangerous to permit the refugees to return except in the framework of a general peace settlement.

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