With the Palestinian refugee issue one of the core issues expected to be at the center of the US's new diplomatic push, the foreign ministry is actively engaged in an effort to ensure that Jewish refuges who fled Arab lands are not forgotten.
Deputy Foreign Ministry Danny Ayalon, who is leading the push to include Jewish refugees in the core issue discussion with the US about refugees, said "it is vitally important to return this issue to the international agenda. It is a matter of justice, closure and righting a wrong."
Ayalon: Interim accord more likely than final status deal
Opinion: I am a refugee
Ayalon, whose father came to Israel after being forced out of Algeria, said this issue has "a practical as well as a moral aspect. The demands from the two sides are asymmetrical, the Palestinians talk of rights and justice [for Palestinian refugees], yet the rights and justice of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands have been ignored and suppressed for too long. "
In an article Ayalon wrote in September in The Jerusalem Post
entitled "I am a refugee," Ayalon said that while some 750,000 Arabs
fled or left Mandatory Palestine, there were some 900,000 Jewish
refugees from Arab lands.
"We are going to make an effort now to bring to the forefront the plight of the Jews from the Arab countries,” he said.
The foreign ministry, in an effort to place this issue high on the
international agenda, has appointed an official to coordinate the
matter. He has met over the last few weeks with historical and legal
experts, and is preparing a detailed position paper that will be entered
into the discussion on the refugee issue.
“We will make sure that this will be an important and integral part of
the negotiations for a final settlement," Ayalon said. "Just as the Arab
refugees is an issue, so is the Jewish refugees.”
The Foreign Ministry recently sent a cable to all Israel's
representations abroad calling on the country's envoys to bring the
issue up with the leadership in the capitals where they are serving.
Diplomatic officials said the reason for raising the issue is not
necessarily to receive compensation for the Jews who left the Arab
countries, though this could be a factor when the Palestinians demand
reparations from Israel for Palestinian refugees, but rather to seek
redress, and an acknowledgement by the world that in 1948 there was not
only a Palestinian refugee issue, but a second one, involving Jews who –
unlike the Palestinians – were fully absorbed.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has made clear that the core issues he
believes should be addressed first in the indirect talks being
conducted by the US are refugees, recognition of Israel as the nation
state of the Jewish people, and security. The Palestinians, however want
to focus first on borders and Jerusalem.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report