Israel’s Forgotten Plan to Settle the Claims of Palestinian and Jewish Refugees

In 1950 and 1951, some 100,000 Iraqi Jews—most of whose assets had been frozen by the Iraqi government—immigrated to the Jewish state. In response, Israeli leaders began to investigate the possibility of an agreement with the Arab countries whereby any property abandoned by Palestinian refugees would be exchanged for property lost by Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Eylon Aslan-Levy writes:

One week [after Iraq announced the freezing of assets], the Israeli foreign minister, Moshe Sharett, addressed the Knesset. The government of Iraq, he argued, had “opened an account with the government of Israel,” and forced the Jewish state to link this account to one that already existed: [that of] the Arab refugees from Israel’s War of Independence. “We shall take into account the value of the Jewish property that has been frozen in Iraq,” declared Sharett, “when calculating the compensation that we have undertaken to pay the Arabs who abandoned property in Israel.”

This principle has been a centerpiece of Israeli policy ever since. . . . In August 1948, Israel had told the UN mediator Folke Bernadotte that any peace treaty with the Arab states should pay “due regard to Jewish counterclaims” for “havoc and destruction.” . . .

[What’s more], this linkage was not entirely Israel’s idea: its strongest support came from Baghdad. In 1949, [the Iraqi prime minister] proposed an organized Jewish-Arab population exchange to a UN commission, offering a compulsory transfer of 100,000 each way, in which Iraq would confiscate Jewish property as compensation for Palestinian property. This came after Arab states suggested to the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) an “exchange of their [Jewish] population against the Arab Palestinian refugees.” Egypt specifically mentioned a possible “exchange of Jews and Arabs.”

Britain rejected Iraq’s proposal. . . . The UNCCP [likewise] refused to endorse it. . . . Arab governments . . . never replied [to formal letters about the subject]. Israel eventually unblocked Arab bank accounts at the UNCCP’s request, after the Israeli UN ambassador Abba Eban’s plea that “equal concern” be given to Jewish refugees fell on deaf ears.

Read more at Tower

More about: Abba Eban, Iraqi Jewry, Israel & Zionism, Mizrahi Jewry, Palestinian refugees, United Nations


Israel Can’t Stake Its Fate on “Ironclad” Promises from Allies

Israeli tanks reportedly reached the center of the Gazan city of Rafah yesterday, suggesting that the campaign there is progressing swiftly. And despite repeatedly warning Jerusalem not to undertake an operation in Rafah, Washington has not indicated any displeasure, nor is it following through on its threat to withhold arms. Even after an IDF airstrike led to the deaths of Gazan civilians on Sunday night, the White House refrained from outright condemnation.

What caused this apparent American change of heart is unclear. But the temporary suspension of arms shipments, the threat of a complete embargo if Israel continued the war, and comments like the president’s assertion in February that the Israeli military response has been “over the top” all call into question the reliability of Joe Biden’s earlier promises of an “ironclad” commitment to Israel’s security. Douglas Feith and Ze’ev Jabotinsky write:

There’s a lesson here: the promises of foreign officials are never entirely trustworthy. Moreover, those officials cannot always be counted on to protect even their own country’s interests, let alone those of others.

Israelis, like Americans, often have excessive faith in the trustworthiness of promises from abroad. This applies to arms-control and peacekeeping arrangements, diplomatic accords, mutual-defense agreements, and membership in multilateral organizations. There can be value in such things—and countries do have interests in their reputations for reliability—but one should be realistic. Commitments from foreign powers are never “ironclad.”

Israel should, of course, maintain and cultivate connections with the United States and other powers. But Zionism is, in essence, about the Jewish people taking responsibility for their own fate.

Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship