Israelis Propose Direct Talks to Break Bottleneck on West Bank Refugees

In talks today with Secretary-General U Thant’s personal representative, Israeli officials renewed proposals for direct discussion with the Jordanian authorities on measures to facilitate the return to the Israeli-held West Bank area of the Arabs who abandoned their homes and fled to Jordan during the June fighting.

The proposal was made by Foreign Minister Abba S. Eban and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan when they met with Nils-Goran Gussing, the Secretary-General’s representative for humanitarian affairs. Mr. Gussing later departed for Cyprus and Egypt.

Jordanian officials thus far have refused to meet with the Israelis. They have also announced that they would not accept for distribution to the refugees in Jordan the identification forms which Israel requires of each applicant for return to Israel-held territory. In a compromise move, the Israelis had agreed to have the papers, which have the name of the State of Israel on them, overprinted with the Red Cross name, but this has not been accepted by the Jordanians. As a result, preparations for the return of the Palestinian Arabs to their homes on the West Bank have been snagged. The Red Cross had previously approved the identification form.

Mindful of the scope of Mr. Gussing’s terms of reference, the Israeli officials raised with him today the question of the treatment of the Jews in the Arab countries. So far, Egypt has refused to permit the International Red Cross to visit the estimated 600 Egyptian and stateless Jews held in Alexandria and Cairo prisons. Reports from other Arab countries, with the exception of Tunisia and Morocco, indicate that the Jews there continue to be in physical danger and subject to all forms of harassment.

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