Monday, June 09, 2008

Israel must weigh in behind Jewish refugees

Writing in Ynet News, Uzi Arad calls on the Israeli government and Knesset to take a more assertive stance on Jewish refugees from Arab Countries:

"Jewish refugees received indirect formal expression in agreements and treaties where the issue of refugees is expressed using language that implies parallelism, without explicitly noting whether a refugee is Palestinian or Jewish. This is how the issue was worded in Resolution 242, in the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, in the Oslo Accords, and in the understandings of the Madrid Conference.

"Until today, Israeli government elements have not given operative weight to the issue. Indeed, in the framework of the Netanyahu government’s preparations for final-status talks, the principles of parallelism and reciprocity were drafted in a manner that would condition progress on the Palestinian refugee issue on parallel progress with respect to Jewish refugees.

"President Clinton accepted this outline and it appeared that the Barak government was willing to adopt it, yet according to testaments by JJAC members and others, the last two governments neglected the issue and refrained from placing it on the operative agenda. Now, in order to close the gap, it is essential to act on two fronts: Firstly, on the legal-principled level – entrench the issue as a permanent element in any framework and agreement, in a similar manner to the way this is done with Palestinian refugees. Secondly, on the practical level – apply the principal of reciprocity, according to which there will be no progress on the issue of Palestinian refugees without progress on the issue of Jewish refugees.

"Only such condition would grant the issue the leverage needed to place it on the agenda and to stimulate it. This explains the significance of legislation adopted in April by the US Congress – which obligates the Administration – according to which any explicit reference to Palestinian refugees must be accompanied by a similar explicit reference to the Jewish refugees.

"It would be appropriate for the Israeli Knesset not to trail behind the US Congress and pose a similar demand. However, the issue obliges the Israeli government even more so, and it must not leave it up to organizations and Jewish leaders in the Diaspora."

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