During his visit to Israel last week, President George Bush effectively threw down the gauntlet to the Arab League to compensate Palestinian refugees or resettle them in a Palestinian state. His King David Hotel declaration on 10 January put forward compensation, not return, as the answer to the Arab refugee problem. It may have escaped many observers, but his declaration was worded carefully enough also to cover Jewish refugees from Arab lands, although he did not mention them explicitly.
As David Singer writes in Israelinsider:
"The President had already made it clear in April 2004 that the Arab League needed to abandon its long standing demand that millions of Arabs be allowed to go and live in Israel when he stated :
"It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of any final status agreement will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel."
The Arab League has failed to embrace this suggestion as the solution to the refugee issue.
The King David Declaration has now raised the diplomatic bar even higher with the President stating :
"I believe we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue."
"These well chosen and carefully crafted words make it clear that President Bush is proposing additional "international mechanisms" to solve the refugee issue -- other than resettlement in the proposed new Arab State. One of those "international mechanisms" will be "compensation" -- and Israel won't be the only country asked to pay it.
"The President has thereby tacitly acknowledged that Israel cannot be held solely responsible for what befell the Arab residents who left Palestine in the wake of the Arab-Jewish conflict in 1947-1948. Other countries -- including members of the Arab League who have perpetuated the refugee issue for the last 60 years -- will also be expected to contribute generously to an internationally administered and funded compensation package".
An international fund is also the preferred solution for the compensation of Jewish refugees. Here President Bush is re-iterating an idea first put forward by President Clinton in 2000:
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton made the following assertion after the rights of Jews displaced from Arab countries were discussed at ‘Camp David II’ in July, 2000 (From White House Transcript of Israeli television interview):
“There will have to be some sort of international fund set up for the refugees. There is, I think, some interest, interestingly enough, on both sides, in also having a fund which compensates the Israelis who were made refugees by the war, which occurred after the birth of the State of Israel. Israel is full of people, Jewish people, who lived in predominantly Arab countries who came to Israel because they were made refugees in their own land”.