JERUSALEM (Aug. 29)
Israel announced here today that it is extending “indefinitely” the previously set August 31 deadline for the admission into the west bank area of the Jordan River certain of the Arab refugees who had fled to the east bank and now want to return. The announcement was made after a conference between Foreign Minister Abba Eban and United States Ambassador Walworth Barbour.
The deadline extension, however, was for the admission of those refugees still in the east bank whose re-entry had already been approved by Israel. The Israeli authorities have been examining carefully the applications for return filled out by the would-be returnees, to screen out known or definitely suspected saboteurs and terrorists. There are 10,000 such approved permits now in the hands of the Jordanian Government for distribution to the qualified refugees.
Both the United States and the United Nations, through Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary General U Thant, have been pressing Israel to lift the August 31 deadline. Originally, Israel had set August 10 as the cut-off date, and later stretched the period to August 31.
As the extension announcement was being issued, it became known that, today, Israel turned over to the International Red Cross — for transmission to Jordan — 1,000 more approved permits. The flow of returnees has been extremely slow, Israel blaming Jordan for creating unnecessary bottlenecks in the process of distributing the permits on its territory. Yesterday, only 679 refugees crossed over, whereas about 3,000 were expected by Israel.
Some of the refugees, it was believed, are being influenced against going back by the Jordanian Government which, publicly, has been clamoring against Israel’s alleged “refusal” to admit them. Jordanian authorities, it was believed here, have been telling the returnees that the situation in the Israel-occupied west bank would be changed as a result of the Arab summit meeting now under way at Khartoum, Sudan, where Jordan’s King Hussein is pressing for the adoption of a “compromise” plan whereby Israel would give up control of the west bank.
Israel’s military governments in the occupied Arab areas are now employing about 16,200 Arabs, it was meanwhile announced here today. Of the total, 10,000 have been given jobs in the west bank area of the Jordan River; nearly 6,000 in the Gaza Strip; and 200 in the occupied Syrian areas. The Ministries of Labor and Development are currently examining the possibilities of further employment for more Arabs in those areas through an increase in tourism and through the development of local products.