Liberman vows to emphasize Jewish refugee issue

FM says he'll raise issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Iran whenever Palestinians demand repatriation of refugees.

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)
“We will not give up on this goal,” Liberman told representatives from the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran on Tuesday afternoon in reference recent developments on his ministry’s efforts to bring the issue of Jewish refugee rights to public and diplomatic attention.
“Whenever the issue of Palestinian refugees is raised in the context of peace negotiations, we will raise the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.”
He noted that the Jewish refugees “came to Israel and were successfully absorbed by the state, as opposed to the Arab states who kept Palestinian refugees in refugee camps to tear Israel apart.”
Liberman, who heads Yisrael Beytenu, also said the issue would be part of his party’s election platform and that he would insist that the campaign be advanced as part of any coalition agreement after the general election in January.
The meeting with the delegates was the first to take place at the ministerial level.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon also announced that a coordinator for Jewish refugee rights had been appointed within the ministry, and that the coordinator would meet regularly with the relevant government departments to advance the issue.
According to the ministry, more than 850,000 Jews from Arab states fled their countries of birth following persecution that ensued after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Many also had their property confiscated.
The ministry, along with the World Jewish Congress, has embarked on a campaign in recent months to raise awareness of the Jewish exodus from Middle Eastern countries.
In September, Ayalon, ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor and World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder held a press conference presenting the campaign at the UN. Foreign diplomats, activists and journalists were in attendance.
Critics of the campaign, including former Jewish refugees from the Middle East, have claimed that it is designed merely to forestall negotiations with the Palestinians.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Ayalon – who has taken the lead on the issue – denied that this was the objective of the campaign.
“The rationale for the campaign is for devotion to historical truth and justice, for awareness and education and... first and foremost [for] recognition,” he said. “Today, there are no negotiations with the Palestinians anyway, so there’s nothing to be held up.”