Eshkol Warns Lack of Western Immigration May Hamper ‘greater Israel’

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol warned an audience of B’nai B’rith leaders here last night that poor prospects of further immigration of Jews to Israel, particularly from Western countries, could seriously hamper Israel in any future negotiations with the Arabs over boundaries and an eventual peace settlement.

Addressing the opening session of the B’nai B’rith Israel Commission, the Prime Minister referred to a “greater Israel” including the occupied parts of Jordan, Syria and Egypt, and to the “new opportunities” that faced his nation in the aftermath of its victory in the Six-Day War last June. He noted that “greater” Israel’s population today numbers 3.8 million, of which 64 percent are Jews and 36 percent non-Jews. “If you were to ask me what is required to realize these opportunities, I would answer in one simple phrase: “We need Jews”, he said.

Mr. Eshkol said he did not want to predict now what the population figures and percentages would be in five, 10 or 15 years. “That depends on too many factors,” including “borders, relations with the Arabs, internal developments in the Arab states and internal developments here.” However, he warned, whatever political decisions are made eventually, they must not be determined by a situation in which there is no aliyah or prospect of aliyah.

The Prime Minister conceded that the immigration outlook is bleak. He noted that only a few more tens of thousands will come from Middle Eastern countries and that Russian Jewry is behind the Iron Curtain, which “is getting thicker and more impenetrable.” The only serious source of Jewish immigration today is from the West, he said, although he recognized that prospects of large-scale immigration from Western countries are not too good. He said that Israel on its part will do everything to streamline the process of immigration and eliminate red tape.

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