With thanks: Levana
In the last frenzied days before Israelis go the polls, the new Beyahad party has put compensation for Jewish refugees from Arab countries at the top of its political manifesto. Beyahad is headed by Eli Yishai, who broke off from the main Shas party, and includes the splinter group Moetzet Hakhmei Hatorah.
Livni(above):'lukewarm'. Right: Nissim Zeev, driving force for Jewish refugees
The Beyahad website commits the party, if elected to government, to work with the Jewish organizations from Arab countries in
order to implement their rights and to develop the initiative of funding
compensation for refugees through the Clinton Plan. The Beyahad platform also includes a paragraph on
improving education about Jews from Arab countries in schools as well as promoting their heritage and history.
Other parties also mention the Jewish refugee issue, such as Yisrael Beteinu and the Zionist Union. However, Beyahad is the first party to recommend compensation by way of the Clinton International Fund.
The driving force behind the Beyahad initiative is MK Nissim Zeev, who followed Eli Yishai out of Shas. There is no doubt that the Jewish refugee issue is close to Nissim Zeev's heart. It was Zeev who introduced the bill passed in the Knesset in 2010 requiring compensation for Jewish refugees to be on the peace agenda, and also initiated the idea of instituting 30 November as a Memorial Day for Jewish Refugees from Arab countries in the Israeli calendar. When Shas became part of the opposition, the Memorial Day bill was shepherded through the Knesset by Shimon Oyahon MK of Yisrael Beteinu.
Zeev, who stands a good chance of being re-elected to the Knesset, last week convened a meeting with organisations representing Jews from Arab countries, and is seeking to get ex-President Bill Clinton, who first proposed the idea of an International Fund at the Camp David talks in 2000, to kick-start the fund.
All countries would contribute to the International Fund, including Arab countries and Israel, although the US is likely to donate the lion's share. The fund would be used to compensate both Jewish and Palestinian refugees.
The commentator Nahum Barnea caused a stir recently in Y-net News when he asked if the Kerry peace talks last year had taken seriously the Jewish refugee issue.
The very next day, the article brought forth a robust 'yes' from Netanyahu's office: he and his chief negotiator Yitzhak Molho had not agreed to any proposals which excluded Jewish refugees. Molho had taken over from Tsipi Livni after her failed talks with Abu Mazen.
Perhaps to make up for her lukewarm approach to the Jewish refugee issue, Livni's Zionist Union, which she heads with Labour's Yitzak Herzog, added the folllowing unexpected words to their manifesto:"the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries must be addressed in any final-status agreement."
However, organisations representing Jews from Arab countries are disappointed that the Zionist Union does not intend to raise the rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries during the negotiations themselves.