Saturday November 1, 2014
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31.10.2014
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Yaakov Ahimeir

Price of peace?

This is how the United States is trying to sweeten the bitter pills Israel is supposed to swallow, the painful diplomatic decrees that will certainly be included in the clauses of a peace agreement -- with a candy dropped into the diplomatic arena: reparations for Jews from Arab countries forced to flee their homes after the 1948 War of Independence. They were able to save themselves, but were forced to abandon their property to get to Zion.

Maybe within this American diplomatic candy, there is a formula for the "right of return," even symbolically addressing the issue of the Palestinian refugees. Therefore, Jewish refugees from Arab countries will receive compensation as well. It is not the first time the comparison, which is distorted and humiliating, has been made: placing side by side compensation for Arab refugees who fled or were expelled during the War of Independence, and for Jewish refugees who left their homes behind in Arab countries. Why is this "distorted" and "humiliating"? Simply because the circumstances of the Jewish and Palestinian refugees differ.

Is this comparison the intention of the American deal-makers? What might be the hidden intention of loosening the purse strings in the name of monetary compensation for Jewish refugees with the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian deal? No, this is not a reaction to an agonizing demand weighing on the conscience of the American broker, insisting that Jewish refugees also be compensated, just like the Palestinian refugees. It could be that this new awakening to the importance of paying compensation to refugees from Arab countries is meant to win hearts and support ahead of achieving an Israeli-Palestinian deal. It may be that the blossoming of this idea, now, 60 years after they arrived to Israel, is meant to entice them to support a deal that will definitely include several bitter diplomatic pills.

We've all heard from the "experts" the prejudiced, even vaguely racist and elitist, belief that Jews from Arab countries do not trust Arab leaders. Therefore, raising the idea of compensation for refugees from Arab countries may be an attempt to recruit support for the deal from more and more Israelis.

Is there anyone at the State Department in Washington who fears that the same segment of the Israeli population that experienced life under Arab governments may link their suspicions and doubts to the trust being afforded to the Palestinian side? It is also possible that this line of thought, of trying to influence public opinion through compensation, is nothing but foolish.

Israeli governments over the years have not raised a loud and forceful voice demanding compensation for those who arrived from Arab countries. They are truly entitled to compensation, and not as a clause in a peace agreement. The time for paying compensation should have begun decades ago, and not now, as an American attempt to garner support for an agreement that may or may not be signed.

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