Eshkol Assures Jewish Agency That It Will Exercise Responsibility for Immigration

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol gave his assurance today that the Jewish Agency will be expected to continue to exercise responsibility for “needy immigrants and refugees” notwithstanding the establishment of a Ministry of Absorption by the Government. Mr. Eshkol stated that position in a letter to Aryeh L. Pincus, chairman of the Jewish Agency. The letter was intended to clarify the future position of the Jewish Agency which many believe is in jeopardy as a result of the Cabinet’s decision a week ago to set up an Absorption Ministry. Delegates to the 27th World Zionist Congress, especially those involved in fund-raising for Israel abroad, had expressed fear that the new ministry was intended to usurp the Jewish Agency’s functions in the sphere of immigrant absorption and that this would have repercussions on fund-raising overseas. Some of those delegates told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that Mr. Eshkol’s letter had relieved their anxiety.

The text of the letter to Mr. Pincus was approved by the Cabinet yesterday. It said: “From the various meetings which we have held together it is clear that there have arisen some misunderstandings as a result of the decision of the Government as announced June 9 (to establish an Absorption Ministry). In order to remove any doubt, I wish to state that the Government did not intend by that decision to take over responsibility relating to needy immigrants and refugees which has always been primarily the responsibility of world Jewry. In establishing the Ministry of Absorption, its functions and responsibilities will have to be determined by a joint committee of the Government and Jewish Agency which has been appointed and will report shortly.

(Herut Party leader Menachem Beigin, who is on a United States tour on behalf of Israel Bonds, will remain in the U.S. until June 25, having received Premier Eshkol’s assurance that no Cabinet vote will be taken on the absorption ministry until he returns to Israel. JTA incorrectly reported yesterday that Mr. Beigin is in the U.S. on behalf of the United Jewish Appeal. Mr. Eshkol notified the Herut leader of the delay after receiving an appeal from the Bond organization to make it possible for Mr. Beigin not to cut short his visit.)

A movement gained ground at the Zionist Congress today for the establishment of non-political independent aliyah (immigration) organizations in Western countries. Membership would be contingent on a declared intention to settle in Israel as soon as possible. Adherents of the idea were convinced that it would advance what is the major Zionist goal — aliyah from the West on a large scale. There are already a number of such spontaneous aliyah groups in several Western countries. They have no party connections and, in some cases, local Zionist offices are not even aware of their existence. Spokesmen for Western aliyah movements met with newsmen yesterday. They are Simon Olswang of England, Pessah Shindler of the United States, Charles Meyer of France and Ivor Trieffenbrun, of Glasgow, Scotland. They said their various groups had one aim only — to organize the settlement in Israel of all individual Jews so disposed. They proposed that the indigenous aliyah movements act as independent bodies within the Zionist Organization framework but with no political attachments. They should be given the fullest cooperation of the WZO through its various national organizations and the Jewish Agency, the Congress delegates said. The movements would be represented on national Zionist bodies and in the WZO and would be activated by the local groups or “chugim.” They stressed that what potential olim (immigrants) wanted was shlichim (emissaries) from Israel who were selected for their ability, not on the basis of party membership. Mr. Meyer, a French lawyer who heads a group of religious academicians in France who want to settle in Israel, said that modern methods must be introduced into the immigration and absorption processes and suggested the use of computers to select jobs for the newcomers.

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