The local newspaper Haaretz reported last week:
Israel is working secretly to obtain the return of Jewish property in Arab countries, Social Equality Ministry Director-General Avi Cohen said Wednesday, adding that millions of shekels have been allocated to the process.There has been great interest, and anger, in Arab media about this story.
Speaking to a Knesset Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee hearing on restitution, Cohen said, “There is classified activity in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry in which we will invest millions to restore property belonging to Arab and Iranian Jewry, which will come to fruition within a month to a month-and-half. I cannot elaborate further.”
Though numbers aren't exact, it is believed that nearly a million Jews resided in Arab countries and in Iran on the eve of the War of Independence in 1948. After Israel was established, around 600,000 of them immigrated to Israel over the next three decades in waves that continued in 1956 and 1967 and after the Iranian revolution in 1979. A State Comptroller report published 2014 blasted the state for neglecting the issue, and put the combined value of the lost assets at “a few billion dollars.”
Al-Ain says that Jewish refugees from Arab countries are a myth, just like the historic Land of Israel and the Jewish people altogether. One of his "proofs" is that UN resolution 181 does not mention Jewish refugees. They meant UN resolution 194, not 181, and it does not mention Arab refugees either - it just talks about "refugees."
Dr. Ahmed Hammad, Professor of Israel Studies at Ain Shams University, described the initiative as "a joke," saying that Israel knows very well that they have no rights to property in Egypt or the Arab states. He says that since the Jews who lived in Egypt were not Israeli citizens then Israel has no rights to claim any compensation on their behalf.
Hammad added that Egyptians can demand compensation from Israel because, he says, the Torah says that Jews "robbed the Egyptians of their gold" during the Exodus from Egypt. (It says no such thing.)