NEW YORK (Dec. 10)
Despite the “heartbreaking damage” and “dangerous implications” of last week’s bombardment of eight Israeli villages near the Syrian border by forces of the United Arab Republic, Shimon Peres, director-general of the Israel Defense Ministry, declared today that a chief concern of Israel’s people continues to be “the solving of our constructive and humanitarian problems.”
“These severe problems,” Mr. Peres said at a press conference at United Jewish Appeal headquarters, “are a combination of three ‘musts.’ We must constantly press ahead in building up the country. At the same time, we must provide housing and livelihoods for the continuous flow of newcomers finding haven in Israel and we must complete the absorption into the national life stream of more than a quarter of a million of earlier immigrants.”
The 35-year-old top administrator of Israel’s defense programs, a close associate of Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, arrived here yesterday after a survey of the devastation wrought by the attack from across the Syrian border. He stressed that he was here on a humanitarian mission, in response to an invitation from the United Jewish Appeal. He will deliver the major address at the Saturday evening session of the UJA’s 21st annual national conference here. The three-day conference opens at the Statler Hilton Hotel Friday morning.
EMPHASIZES NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMIGRATION FROM COMMUNIST LANDS
Mr. Peres emphasized the new opportunities for emigration to Israel which opened recently in two satellite countries in East Europe. “The number of immigrants from these countries arriving in Israel is about 4,000 a month, “he reported. “This limit is imposed by these governments. It does not represent our feelings. We are prepared to take all who come.” He described the newcomers as “physically fit, arriving virtually penniless. They are permitted to take with them 40 pounds of luggage.”
Asked what the policy was on military service for those of military age among the new arrivals, Mr. Peres said–referring to the military age limits of 18 to 29–such immigrants have the option of joining the armed forces immediately or postponing their entry into service for two years. The tour of duty is two and a half years, during which servicemen receive the equivalent of a four-year education course in Hebrew, plus other amenities.
He said 110,000 people are still in maarabot, most of them from North Africa and some from Eastern Europe. “We hope to settle them in permanent housing in the near future, but the problem, of course, involves the rate of incoming immigrant.” he stated.
Mr. Peres revealed that the first of the two submarines purchased from Britain will arrive in Israel in June, at which time it will be made part of the Israel Navy, Crews are now being trained in England, he said. He also reported that he had met with Guy Mollet, Socialist leader, and Jacques Soustelle, head of the major Gaullist party, in Paris Monday. He said the major parties in France, as well as the French Government, remain committed to friendship with Israel. Mr. Peres will remain in the United States about nine days.