By Moshe Reinfeld, Ha'aretz Correspondent
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon submitted Monday an affidavit to the High Court of Justice asking it to reject the appeal of former residents of Ikrit and Biram to return to their villages. The residents of these two Arab villages were ordered by Israeli forces to leave their homes during the War of Independence and were promised that they would be allowed to return at a later date.
The affidavit, submitted on Sharon's behalf by the State Prosecutor's Office, argues that the villagers' land was legally appropriated by the state and that the evicted residents and their descendants have no legal claim to it. Shaorn's affidavit also warns that, "the precedent of returning the displaced persons to their villages would be used for propaganda and political purposes by the Palestinian Authority."
In 1996, a committee chaired by former justice minister David Libai recommended that two new communities be built on part of the land where the two villages once stood. However, the new affidavit notes that no such recommendation ever received government approval - a reference to a decision adopted by the government of Golda Meir in 1972, which denied the right of the evicted residents to return to the villages.
The affidavit also contends that most of the former residents of the two villages have received compensation or land in an alternative location. It emphasizes that the issue of Ikrit and Biram must be viewed in the context of some 200,000 Israeli Arabs who lost their homes during the War of Independence.
The affidavit reflects the majority opinion of a committee Sharon appointed to look into the matter soon after becoming prime minister. A minority on the panel favored implementing the Libai recommendations.