JERUSALEM (Aug. 23)
Israel has launched a new initiative in an effort to directly deal with the problem of Palestinian refugees in both Lebanon and the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The committee, which will be lead by Minister-Without-Portfolio Mordechai Ben-Porat, met today for the first time, dealing primarily with procedural matters. While it did not set specific goals, the committee agreed with a decision by an experts committee which would work out the terms of reference for the new committee.
The committee members will include: Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Deputy Premier David Levy, Justice Minister Moshe Nissim, Economic Minister Yoacov Metidor, and Development and Science Minister Yuval Neeman.
Meridar already deals specifically with refugees resulting from the fighting in Lebanon. But according to an aid of Ben-Porat, the new committee will work to solve the problems of all Palestinian refugees.
Ben-Porat last week visited refugee camps in Lebanon and this week he is expected to visit Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and soon thereafter, in the Gaza Strip.
The committee will seek the establishment of an international fund which would undertake the financial expenses involved in the project. Two delicate issues which the committee may deal with, although nothing has been decided, concerns property of Jews left behind in Arab countries and the issue of Arab property in Israel.