U. N. Votes to Prolong Aid to Arab Refugees; Wants Rolls Rectified
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U. N. Votes to Prolong Aid to Arab Refugees; Wants Rolls Rectified

By an overwhelming vote of 91 to 1, with 7 abstensions, the full General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution today dealing with the Arab refugee problem giving a new three-year mandate to the United Nations agency aiding the refugees and directing the head of that agency to “rectify” the relief rolls which have been swelling year by year since 1950.

The sole negative vote was cast by Israel, whose permanent representative here, Ambassador Michael S. Comay, explained that his delegation voted “no” because the resolution adopted had emphasized a single paragraph of a 1948 Assembly resolution which the Arab states interpret as giving the refugees a non-existent “right” to return to Israel.

By including reference to that 1948 paragraph, Mr. Comay told the Assembly, the United Nations has failed to affirm the principle that the most urgent need in the Middle East now is for “dialogue” between Israel and the Arab governments toward final solution of all the Arab-Israel disputes.

The adoption of the resolution today culminated a long series of debates which were started in the Assembly’s Special Political Committee on October 11 and at times generated great heat between the Arab delegations on the one hand and Israel on the other.

After weeks of behind the scenes negotiations, a new resolution eliminating virtually all of the clauses to which both the United States and Israel objected was presented today to the Assembly plenary session by Nigeria.

The resolution extends the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Regugees, due to expire next June 30, to June 30, 1969. It “directs the Commissioner General of UNRWA to take such measures including rectification of the relief rolls, a problem which has been and continues to be of major concern to the General Assembly, to assure, in cooperation with the governments concerned, the most equitable distribution of relief based on need.” That clause refers to the admitted fact that, of the approximately 1,300,000 refugees on the UNRWA relief rolls, there are possibly several hundred thousand fraudulent claimants, including ration card holders who inherited their cards from refugees who have long-since been dead.


Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, the United States representative who represented the United States delegation in the committee, told the Assembly that the United States Government was concerned “that men undergoing military training by the Palestine Liberation Organization” had been receiving rations from UNRWA.

Such a practice he said was “inadmissable and must be corrected” where it exists. He pledged that his delegation hoped “to obtain further information on this point. The PLO is a military force formed by the United Arab Command to “liberate the Palestine homeland” and has been recruiting refugees.

Ambassador Comay, in explaining Israel’s negative vote on the resolution, told the Assembly that Israel supports the extension of UNRWA’s mandate and that Israel’s negative vote on the resolution just adopted “does not imply any reservation regarding the extension of the mandate of UNRWA and its financial needs” and that “we are in full agreement with the imperative need to rectify its (UNRWA’s) rolls.”

Ambassador Comay told the Assembly that Israel was gratified that the Nigerian resolution no longer contains any reference to the alleged “rights” of the refugees. However, the Israeli diplomat said, “in spite of the positive aspects of the matter, my delegation and my government are deeply concerned at the failure of the resolution to come to grips with the essence of the problem, or to open a door to a constructive resolution of it.

“I have no doubt,” Mr. Comay stressed, “that most delegations represented here share our conviction that such a solution requires agreement between the governments concerned — an agreement freely negotiated by them, and reconciling the real interest and welfare of the refugees with the sovereignty, national security and the economic life of the countries involved.


“But the present resolution,” Mr. Comay pointed out, “neither gives expression to this objective, nor does it confine itself to the humanitarian and practical aspects of the refugee problem. Instead, it keeps United Nations policy on this problem a prisoner of a single paragraph torn out of the context of a resolution (adopted in 1948) which, in its fifth paragraph called upon the governments concerned to seek agrement by negotiations conducted either with the Conciliation Commission or directly with a view to the final settlement of all questions outstanding between them.

“In casting its vote, the Israel delegation took into account the fact that the Arab governments have made of that 1948 paragraph a banner of belligerency. Israel cannot allow itself to be insensitive to the political and even military overtones this acquires in the area itself. What Israel wants is that the United Nations should courageously return to recognition of the need for an Israel-Arab dialogue.

“Israel is convinced that, if there were a sincere desire on the part of the Arab governments to enter into such a dialogue, with a view to a peaceful solution, all outstanding problems, including the refugee question, could be resolved. It is the Arab governments that have to decide whether they wish for a peaceful accommodation with Israel or not. Unless and until they choose to walk with us the path of peaceful accommodation, there is little the Government of Israel can do unilaterally to help solve the refugee problem,” Mr. Comay stated.

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