State Comptroller Yosef Shapira
State Comptroller Yosef ShapiraIsrael news photo: Flash 90

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira slammed the Israeli government Wednesday for dragging its feet for over 60 years on providing compensation for Jewish refugees from Arab lands. 

Walla! reported Wednesday that the State Comptroller's Office issued a harsh statement over the issue.

"Despite the solemn declarations of the Israeli government regarding the commitment to pursue the rights of immigrants from these countries, the actual activities of the relevant authorities were very few, and they show that the government's commitment to making decisions was limited, and had not given proper attention to the subject," the report stated. 

Roughly one million Jews were expelled or forced to flee from Arab countries around the time of the establishment of Israel in 1948. The assets they were forced to leave behind are estimated at around $4.4 billion.

Between 2003-2007, the Israeli government made a number of decisions aimed at documenting and compiling as much information as possible about the injustices experienced by the Jews of Arab countries and Iran, many of whom were expelled and dispossessed of their property in nearby statehood.

The purpose of information gathering was to raise international awareness of the matter, and bring about international decisions on compensation for hundreds of thousands of these Jews.

But no action was taken until recently, when Martin Indyk, the US envoy to the Middle East, announced that he would be adding a refugee compensation clause to the US framework for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. 

The Comptroller's report states that the government had not acted sufficiently to promote the issue. "It was found that although the Israeli government had set some resolutions - the first a decade ago - that attempted to formulate a comprehensive policy for the restitution of Jewish property rights, and appointed a ministerial committees to formulate such a policy - this was not done, i.e., these committees have not fulfilled their roles. Nor has the government acted to enforce its decisions."

The report concluded that "the Israeli government had not allocated an appropriate, specific budget" to resolve the issue and that "in view of the importance of registration of rights to Jews from Arab countries and Iran, as reflected in the decisions of the government, especially in view of this aging population, the government should act to regulate appropriate measures to implement its decisions on this matter as soon as possible." 

Partial efforts have already been made to rectify the problem. Tuesday, a proposed bill to enact an annual commemoration day for the Jewish refugees passed an initial reading.