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Ben Gurion Reiterates Offer to Discuss Solution of Arab Refugee Problem

November 30, 1959
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion reiterated this week-end Israel’s readiness to discuss the Arab refugee problem independently of the issue of an overall Arab-Israel peace settlement, but added that Israel was opposed to a revival of the United Nations Conciliation Commission to handle the refugee problem. This has been suggested by several speakers in the current debate before the General Assembly’s Special Political Committee on the future of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

Discussing the controversy between Premier Kassem of Iraq and President Nasser of the United Arab Republic, the Prime Minister said that Israel, as between the two Arab leaders, sided with Kassem. He explained that all Israel wanted in the Middle East “is the status quo” and that checking Nasser’s “expansion desires” was a goal Israel shared with Kassem. He added that “of course, we do not expect any Arab leader to express his love for Israel.”

Mr. Ben-Gurion spoke at the annual November 29 lunch with Israel correspondent which commemorates the United Nations’ Palestine partition decision of 1947. In reply to a question about the refusal of India’s Premier Jawaharlal Nehru to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, because Mr. Nehru wanted to be a mediator between Israel and the Arabs, Mr. Ben-Gurion said “Nehru will not be the man to mediate between us and the Arabs.”


In discussing Israel’s stand on the Arab refugees, the Prime Minister said Israel’s readiness to discuss the problem was on the understanding that the refugees would be resettled in Iraq and Syria, but not in Egypt. He said Israel could contribute to solution of the problem both by payment for abandoned Arab land and by offering Israel’s experience in resettling and rehabilitating refugees.

He said such talks could be held directly between Israel and the Arab states or indirectly through a representative. He remarked that “we must not have Nasser at the table if he does not so wish.” The Arab representative, he suggested, could act as a “messenger,” taking and bringing conclusions of one party to the other in negotiations.

Mr. Ben-Gurion was asked whether Israel had invited Sekou Toure, President of Guinea. He replied that Israel would gladly invite any head of state who would accept an invitation, “be it Khrushchev or anyone else.”

He expressed doubts that the UN would find a solution for the problem of the Danish ship, the Inge Toft, which has been detained at Port Said by the UAR with an Israel cargo since last May 21. He added that while the possibilities of effective UN intervention regarding the Inge Toft were slight, Israel would nevertheless have to wait for such intervention to produce results.

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