Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Philadelphia Bulletin: Israeli Bill Includes Rights Of Jewish Refugees From Arab Lands

by David Bedein

Jerusalem - Israel's Knesset Parliament passed a seminal bill last Wednesday that will affect any future Middle East peace negotiations.

According to the bill, it will not be possible for Israel to sign any diplomatic agreement with any state or foreign entity without arranging for the interests and rights of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

The refugees are defined, according to the UN's Refugee Convention as, "the Jewish citizens of Israel who immigrated from Arab countries in the wake of the establishment of the State of Israel and forced to leave the property that had been in their ownership in their countries of origin."

The terms received by the Jewish refugees, moreover, must be on par with the terms received by Arab refugees in the final status negotiations. 

In addition, the bill says, "In any discussion on the subject of Palestinian refugees as part of peace negotiations in the Middle East, the Israeli government will raise the subject of awarding compensation for loss of property and the granting of equal status to the Arab refugees, who left their property from the day that the state was established, and Jewish refugees from Arab countries."

The background explanatory statement about the bill notes that a million and a half Jewish refugees either were expelled or fled from Arab countries and were forced to leave their homes and property since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

The U.S. Congress passed a resolution in February 2008 stipulating that these Jews were defined as refugees in keeping with the explicit definition of the UN Refugee Convention. The bill states that the Israeli government already made the decision about registering claims of Jews from Arab countries. Now, this bill will obligate the government not only to "register" these claims, but also to include them in any future peace treaty and also in the negotiations which precede it.

View the original article in the Philadelphia Bulletin

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