JERUSALEM (Sep. 4)
The delegation of American Jewish leaders who arrived here during the week-end to participate in conferences on Israel’s economic problems, and to discuss the floating of a $1,500,000,000 loan for Israel among Jews throughout the world, adjourned their meeting today after hearing addresses yesterday and this morning by Premier David Ben Gurion and Finance Minister Eliezer Kaplan on the prospects of Israel’s becoming economically stronger in 1953.
The conferences will be resumed tomorrow morning. The Americans were scheduled to make a swift tour of Israel, including the Negev, today and to hear a report on Israel’s military security tonight from Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Yigal Yadin. Meanwhile, the Israel Cabinet met today to continue discussions on the Jewish state’s economic situation. The Cabinet is expected to conclude its economic deliberations on Thursday, when the American Jews end their meetings here.
Opening the extraordinary conference at the King David Hotel here last night, Promier Ben Gurion presented an inspiring survey of Israel’s progress from the termination of the British Mandate to the “successive phases of consolidation of the state.” He emphasized the “most significant and ereative phenomenon in contemporary Jewish history–the mass movement of Jews returning in unprecedented numbers to their historic homeland.” The Israel Premier, who dwolt on the “striking change on the composition of immigration through the spectacular rise in the proportion of Oriental Jews, asserted that more than 1,400,000 Jews from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia seek to come to Israel.
If they are to be saved from destruction, the Israel Premier said, a minimum of 600,000 immigrants must be brought to Israel in the next three years. An annual immigration to Israel of 200,000 is therefore, he continued, a “matter of great urgency.” The Jews “in a number of countries have no other choice–and we in Israel also have no other choice. Despite all difficulties, the flow of immigration must continue,” he stated.
BEN GURION DEMANDS IMMIGRATION EVEN IF IT “IS ECONOMICALLY UNFEASIBLE”
Premier Ben Gurion continued: “We know that Israel is a small country threatened with a second round by the Arab states, who receive arms from abroad while there is practically an embargo on arms for Israel by the United States and Britain. We carry a heavier defense burden than the people of the United States and while we are still young and struggling to get on our feet, we must take in people. It may be politically irrational, it may be economically unfeasible–but since when has a mother refused her children?”
Asserting that Israel is fully aware of the great trials flowing from such a flood of immigration, the Premier cited reports on intelligence tests of new immigrants to disprove the assertion that the “new wave of immigration from backward and poverty-ridden countries will lower the intellectual and spiritual level of the Jewish community in Israel.” While Israel already feels a great lack of skilled labor, professional engineers, nurses and doctors, the Israel Premier said, immigrants from the Orient have proven themselves excellent pioneers. He voiced the hope that the “west would send skilled workers and professional persons to serve in the development of the country.”
During the past two years, Mr. Ben Gurion reported, 240 agricultural settle- ments were established, 2,100,000 dunams of land were put under cultivation and 82,000 persons were settled on the land. “These amazing developments were made possible by Oriental Jews from Turkey, Yemen, Morocco and Eastern Europe,” he declared. He also traced the “eminently constructive and highly adaptable quality of Eastern immigrants, as exemplified by their record in the Army and by their intellectual development.”
Outlining the problems facing Israel in integrating 600,000 immigrants in the next three years, Mr. Ben Gurion said 200,000-250,000 pounds will be needed to settle 60,000 families on the land, and an additional 150,000 pounds will be required to house 700,000 newcomers–including the 80,000 immigrants still living in reception camps. The Premier said that a total of $1,500,000,000 will be needed to expand production not only for home consumption, but to increase exports to lessen Israel’s dependence on foreign exchange.
“We do not believe,” the Premier said, “in coordinated planning only and we don’t believe in regimented economy. In every branch of industry there is every opportunity for private initiative, but you cannot bring in hundreds of thousands of persons to a young country, without planning their housing and employment and adequate agricultural development.”
Finance Minister Kaplan told the conference that Israel is financially solvent and is on the road to increasing its national income from 240,000,000 pounds in 1949 to 480,000,000 pounds in 1953. In three years, he said, Israel would be financially in a very good position, were it not for the problem of immigration.
The Finance Minister predicted that after 1953, “those coming to Israel will do so as a result of the force of attraction rather than expulsion.” Mr. Kaplan stated that Israel is “not as poor as many think. Encouraging reports justify our hope that the present difficulties are only temporary and that self-imposed hardships–which we will continue to impose on ourselves–will bring a brighter future, that is not far away,” he added.