Restitution bill en route to final round on Knesset floor

If implemented, Jews forced out of Arab lands would be compensated.

February 3, 2010 07:03
1 minute read.

The Knesset’s Immigration and Absorption Committee met on Tuesday to put the finishing touches on a bill that would mandate offering compensation to Jews who were forced out of Arab lands following the establishment of state.

The committee unanimously approved for second and final readings on the Knesset floor the measure sponsored by MK Nissim Ze’ev (Shas), including the addenda incorporated by Ze’ev following a rapid-fire discussion among participants representing government ministries and immigrants advocacy organizations.

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Ze’ev emphasized, in his arguments in support of the bill, that in February 2008, the US House of Representatives passed a resolution that said that the United States should demand, in the course of Middle East peace talks, that the same refugee recognition be extended to Jews and Christians as is extended to Palestinians.

In addition to allowing Jews to press claims against Arab countries regarding property that they were forced to leave behind, Ze’ev argued that parallel refugee status would enable negotiators to retroactively determine that Palestinian refugees and the Jewish refugees were part of a “population exchange,” thus negating the basis for Palestinian claims to a “right of return.”

During the debate on Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry faced off with immigrants on the subject of which countries are included in the definition – whether it is limited to Arab League countries, and how – or whether – to include Jews who left Iran following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in the definition.

In addition, the Justice Ministry’s representatives expressed concern that if the rights to restitution were offered to Jewish refugees’ descendants, then Palestinians could also demand continued reparations.

The bill’s proponents, however, retorted that the Palestinians already claim that beyond the original fewer than 1 million Palestinian refugees, more than 4.5 million Palestinians are now entitled to refugee status.

The new draft of the bill also adds a demand for compensation for Jewish communal properties, such as synagogues and cemeteries that were lost as a result of the Jews’ flight.

Ze’ev said on Tuesday that he intends to bring the bill for its second and final readings on the Knesset floor on February 15.

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