Mr. RAFAEL (Israel) thanked the Chairman for the welcome extended to him. His delegation appreciated meeting with the Commission under the Chairmanship of Mr. Palmer, who had made valuable, and he hoped successful efforts to move from the deadlock that had obtained in the matter of blocked accounts in view of the fact t that he had not seen the official version of his Government’s aide-memoire as communicated to the Commission, though he understood that it did not contain the fifth paragraph of the text communicated to the Department of State, he read to the Commission a letter from Ambassador Eban to Mr. Hickerson to the effect that the fifth paragraph of the aide-memoire was not intended for the Conciliation Commission and that the Government of Israel did not insist that it be inserted. Mr. Rafael then read the text of fifth paragraph, which, noting that it would clearly not be equitable for Israel to release the blocked accounts of former Arab residents of Palestine without some corresponding action on accounts held by Israeli nationals in countries, expressed the hope that the United States Government might be a secure a corresponding release of the blocked accounts in Arab countries.
The CHAIRMAN and Mr. CHAI (Acting Principal Secretary) explained that aide-memoire had been circulated as a restricted document and that the paragraph in question had not been included in the text as communicated to Commission.
Mr. RAFAEL (Israel) wished to make a few brief remarks regarding the general aspects of his Government’s proposal and would return later to [det…MISSED word] question. The institution of blocked accounts in some countries was not a new or unique problem. He believed that in most countries the institution of blocked accounts existed and was a matter subject to stringent legislation. The question was not being dealt with by the Commission for the first time, and the record in the matter was known to its members. He recalled that a mixed committee of experts had been set up at Lausanne to find ways and means of releasing the blocked accounts. That committee had been the only one composed of Arab and Israeli representatives under the Chairmanship of the Principal Secretary of the Commission. The representative of Egypt had represented all the Arab countries participating in the Lausanne Conference. After long technical discussion, certain procedures had been developed which had been accepted by the three parties. On 15 February 1954, the Government of Israel had declared itself willing to release from each of the blocked accounts held by former Arab residents of Palestine an amount of 100 pounds sterling to be paid into a trust account established under the good offices of the commission, and to be released to the Arab Governments upon attainment of a settlement between Israel and the Arab States which had participated in the war against Israel. The Arab Countries were, in the meantime, to have advanced the equivalent to the holders of the accounts. His Government had done that because it had been represented to Israel that such a step would generate good will among the Arab countries and would therefore facilitate a final settlement. The Israeli Delegation had thereafter co-operated to implement the agreement, accepting various suggestions made relative to the trust account; but despite the sincere efforts made by the Commission and the Secretariat the agreement had not been implemented. His Government had been and still was ready to implement that agreement. He was not going to conjecture as to why it had not been implemented, although the phrase “final settlement” might have had some influence in the matter. His Government was ready to approach the question anew and to tackle the practical procedures and methods which would enable release of the funds of former Arab residents at Palestine. It was ready to waive the limit 100 pounds and to discuss the practical aspects for general release, of course in stages, of funds legitimately owned by Arabs currently residing abroad.
The decision that had been taken by the Government of Israel had not been an easy one in the light of the hostile altitude consistently maintained by the Governments of the surrounding countries. His Government had not seen any relaxation in that hostility during the last four years. He had not seen any Arab Government relax its boycott and blockage measures against Israel. It was not necessary to point out that those measures had a notable effect on Israel as well as on the economies of the Arab countries. It was not easy to take such a step while the Arab countries flouted the authority of the Security Council on two counts: The Security Council repeatedly enjoined the Arab countries and Israel to negotiate a final settlement. The General Assembly had consistently endorsed that position. A question directly linked with the economic position of Israel and thus with its ability to release the accounts was the flouting of the Security Council resolution expressing the Council’s verdict against any restrictive measures on the free passage of vessels through the Suez Canal. Since the 1st of September 1951, the date of adoption of the resolution which was still in, force, there had been no indication that Egypt was going to relax its blockade. There was no need to go into detail concerning the resulting economic damage to Israel or the effect on Israel’s financial capabilities. Despite the unrelenting economic warfare waged by the Arab countries his Government was ready, as an instalment of good will to develop the necessary measures to implement the commitment in its aide-memoire.
The CHAIRMAN said that the Commission was gratified to hear from Mr. Rafael the expression of the intention and preparedness of the Government of Israel to unblock the accounts of absentees. He had listened with interest to the account of the difficulties that had stood and remained in the way of an easy settlement. He particularly appreciated the reference to the difficulties in connexion with the arguments that he had made in urging upon the delegation of Israel the unblocking of the accounts. In that connexion, he recalled his views as to the value of such a step with regard to the paragraph of General Assembly resolution referring to the alleviation of the plight of the Arab refugees. There had been some of discussion in the past as to the extent to which the unblocking of the accounts would in fact lead to such alleviation. It was obviously desirable that the effects should be as widespread as possible, and, if the accounts were to be unblocked in stages, making the effects widespread would not only alleviate the plight of the refugees but would create the maximum of good will. Actual payment and the prospect of subsequent payment to as many as possible would encourage others holding accounts still blocked in whole or in part to hope. A better atmosphere would thus be created.
Noting that up to the present the Commission had discussed the matter that more or less in the dark, as for example with regard to the estimated total amounts involved, the Chairman said that it seemed important to have all possible information regarding the accounts so as to enable the Commission better to determine the procedure to be used and to enable the benefits to be as wide-spread as possible. He did not know whether the representative of Israel had complete information available in New York, but assumed that the Commission would be provided with the necessary information, on which it might confer with experts in the Secretariat to ensure that the procedures decided upon were sound and that no unfortunate delays would result. The Commission would therefore appreciate having the information as soon as possible. Detailed discussion would then be possible at a later meeting on the basis of the information provided.
Mr. RAFAEL (Israel) said that he had avoided questions of detail in his opening statement and had likewise avoided re-stating the motives and principles set forth in his Government’s aide-memoire. He wished to assure the Commission that one of the guiding motives of his Government was the desire to assist in alleviating the plight of the refugees and to assist them in finding homes and in re-settlement. He appreciated Mr. Palmer’s faith that Israel’s willingness to make the additional steps of unblocking the accounts would have its effect on the political situation prevailing in the area. He was fully aware that under the present circumstances of international tension, it was necessary to eliminate tension wherever that was possible. His country would be found co-operative as before in attempting to reduce the tension in the area.
His Government would certainly take steps to identify the holders and the amounts of the accounts and deposits and provide the Commission with all the information regarding the accounts and deposits. The information was not at present available in New York, but his delegation had taken the necessary steps to have it prepared by the Government of Israel. He would appreciate some more indications of the requirements of the Commission in order to expedite that preparation.
Mr. MENEMENCIOGLU (Turkey) said that he had communicated the aide-memoire of the Government of Israel to his Government, which had expressed great pleasure on receiving it. He was very pleased to have had the confirmation just made by the representative of Israel. In connexion with the last point raised by Mr. Rafael, there was a matter of terminology which he thought should be clarified. Up to that time, his Delegation and the Commission had assumed that securities and valuables entrusted to banks for safekeeping fell under the heading of blocked accounts under the definition of the Defence Regulations of 1948 and the Emergency Powers Act of 1939. Perhaps the representative of Israel could provide some information on that point at the following meeting.
The CHAIRMAN thought that there were undoubtedly securities and valuables involved as well as current accounts. The question was whether the total sums mentioned had been based only upon the cash involved, or upon all valuables. That was one of the questions which could be discussed at the following meeting.
In reply to a question put by the Chairman, Mr. RAFAEL (Israel) said that he had no objection to having the Commission issue a press communique on the matter, but thought it best that a start be made with a modest statement on the situation, in order to avoid building excessive expectations at a comparatively early stage.
It was agreed that the Commission would meet again with the Representative of Israel at 11.00 a.m. on Tuesday, 15 July.
Audition du représentant d'Israël concernant les comptes bloqués - 283e séance de la CCNUP (New York) - Compte rendu Français