The Israeli government is set to lodge a staggering £196 billion ($250 billion) in compensation claims with seven Arab countries plus Iran, from where Jews were forced to leave their homes after 1948.
In an extraordinary legal move 18 months in the making, Israeli ministers are about to lodge the first two compensation claims – for £27.5 billion ($35 billion) and £11.7 billion ($15 billion) – for lost Jewish assets in Tunisia and Libya respectively.
Analysts estimate that around 850,000 Jews were forced to leave their homes around the Middle East after the establishment of the State of Israel, often with no compensation, and in 2014 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began calling for recompense.
The countries Israeli ministers are targeting include Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Yemen and Egypt, but are not understood to include Lebanon or Algeria.
Palestinian leaders have previously submitted claims for about £78.4 billion ($100 billion) for Palestinian land seized and retained by the IDF with no compensation, but Israel has never previously sought recompense for the property Jewish refugees left behind.
“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property what is rightfully theirs,” said Israeli Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel.
Iraqi-born Edwin Shuker, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said: “There cannot be a just resolution to the conflict without addressing the issue of Jewish as well as Palestinian refugees.”
He added: “The Israeli government is obliged by law to raise this issue in any negotiations. Equally important is to ensure that any settlement should be used to compensate the victims and to preserve a unique and magnificent culture.”
Commentators say the timing of the Israeli move may be in-step with the Trump administration, which plans to unveil its Middle East peace plan imminently.
Both Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu hope that Arab countries will back the US proposal, believed to be a take-it-or-leave-it deal, and the new Israeli compensation claims could therefore be ‘dropped’ as a bargaining chip.