President Johnson Urges Return of Former Residents to West Bank

President Johnson said today that the United States supported the return of Arab refugees to the West Bank area now held by Israel.

In a telegram to Sen. Albert B. Gore, Tenn. Dem., who told the Senate yesterday of the urgent need for settlement of the refugee question, Mr. Johnson said: “I am in full agreement with your views concerning the urgent need for the return to the West Bank of as many of the displaced people as possible. These people have been uprooted from their established places of residence and in many cases separated from their families. Moreover,” the President added, “it is neither humane nor logical for them to be living in make-shift and inadequate camps when far better conditions exist on the West Bank.”

Mr. Johnson said the United States was “gratified” that Israel had said it would permit these people to return and had urged Israel to do so in a way that would enable the “maximum number” to return. He noted that Israel had said it was taking “urgent steps to restore economic activity on the West Bank” and would encourage the displaced Arabs to return.

The President stressed that Arab refugee settlement was one of the five points he had made in his June 19 speech for Middle East peace. Handling of the refugee question, he said, “will have a vital bearing on the overall question of whether a more stable peace can be established in the Near East.”

Mr. Johnson emphasized in his telegram to Sen. Gore that the immediate task was to ease the suffering of persons who fled from the area of fighting during the period of hostilities.

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