Reparations for Jews from Arab countries must be included in peace talks, MKs say

Knesset Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen says government disregarding 2010 law requiring issue to be part of talks.

Jewish refugees from Yemen cross desert 370 (photo credit: Courtesy Israeli National Photo Archive)
Jewish refugees from Yemen cross desert 370
(photo credit: Courtesy Israeli National Photo Archive)
The government is ignoring Jewish refugees from Arab countries in negotiations with the Palestinians, Knesset Control Committee chairman Amnon Cohen said Wednesday.
“We have to take our brothers from Arab countries into consideration. They don’t get any reparations from property worth billions of dollars, which they had to abandon because they were expelled,” Cohen (Shas) explained.
Cohen pointed out that the government is disregarding a 2010 law requiring that reparations for Jews from Arab countries be included in any negotiations with the Palestinians.
However, US envoy in the negotiations Martin Indyk indicated earlier this year that a treaty could include such compensation.
Cohen also called for Senior Citizens Minister Uri Orbach to prepare a report on the value of lost Jewish property to be used in the talks, as the topic falls under his jurisdiction, and to collect information previously gathered by the Justice and Foreign ministries on the matter.
“Some justice ministers, like Tzipi Livni, aren’t interested in the matter, even though the UN recognized the legitimacy of Jewish refugees from Arab countries’ demands,” Cohen stated.
Orbach said collecting information “is important because of these people’s right to their lost property, but the chances of receiving compensation are small.... I don’t want to commit to missions that we may not be able to handle, but we will up the pace of the documentation.”
However, Senior Citizens Ministry director-general Gilad Semama said that his budget is too low for the project. Still, by the end of 2014, Semama expects the ministry to gather testimony from 3,000 people.
Finance Ministry representative Guy Harmati took issue with the complaint, saying that the Senior Citizens Ministry asked for a NIS 50 million budget, which is too high, and that he needs to see results before increasing funds.
Levana Zamir, head of the International Association of Jews from Egypt, said that 35,000 Jews were expelled from Egypt in 1956 and that the Foreign Ministry documented some of their abandoned property.
According to Zamir, part of the peace treaty with Egypt said that Israel would demand compensation for the lost property, but it never happened.
“Livni thinks that Jews from Arab countries are an obstacle to peace,” Zamir lamented.
Meir Kahlon, representing Libyan Jews, said communal property should count, as well.
“Palestinians document every tent, well and thicket they had here, but we left behind property worth billions of shekels,” he stated.