JERUSALEM (Jun. 16)
An International Conference on Human Needs in Israel opened here today and was told by Israel’s Finance Minister that if the nation could reduce its defense budget by 16 percent, it could by itself solve such social problems as housing, poverty and equal education for all.
But, said Zeev Sharef, Israel cannot afford to cut its defense expenses by so much as six percent, and security needs will continue to account for 40 percent of the national budget.
The conference, co-sponsored by Premier Golda Meir and Louis A. Pincus, chairman of the Jewish Agency, is being attended by 204 representatives of major fund-raising bodies in the United States and 23 other countries, In the absence of Mrs. Meir, who is attending the conference of the Socialist International in England, Acting Premier Yigal Allon greeted the delegates and delivered the opening speech. Mrs. Meir will address the conference at its closing session on Thursday.
In addition to Mr. Allon and Mr. Sharef, who said Israel will need an annual infusion of over $140 million to cover the costs of immigrant absorption, education and housing, the conference heard today from Max M, Fischer, a leader of the United Jewish Appeal and United Israel Appeal; Rabbi Herbert A. Friedman, UJA executive vice chairman; Dr. Israel Goldstein, president of Keren Hayesod, the fund-raising arm of the world Zionist movement; and from Mr. Pincus who chaired the first session. The second session was chaired by Louis J. Fox, president of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds in the United States.
Mr. Fischer, an adviser to President Richard M. Nixon, said the conference was concerned with advancing Israel’s most precious resource–its people. He said its aim was to improve facilities for education, immigrant absorption and health services at a time when almost every effort of Israel’s Government and citizens must be directed to insuring physical survival in face of continuing hostility from the neighboring Arab lands. He said the goal of the gathering was to “build an Israel marked by excellence in all the arts and sciences of healing, life-giving accomplishments and the ability to advance through great achievements the welfare and betterment of mankind.”
Rabbi Friedman told the delegates that material prepared for working groups of the conference indicated that an investment of over a billion dollars was required during the next five years to carry out projects in the fields of immigrant absorption, education and housing.
Dr. Goldstein noted that what he called the “Keren Hayesod community” consisted of some 2.5 million Jews in 54 countries outside of the United States. They are only half as large as the American Jewish community and operate under far greater difficulties, yet last year they contributed $150 million for Israel, he said.
Mr. Allon, who is Deputy Premier and heads the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, limited his remarks to political issues, outlining Israel’s role in the world, her quest for peace and the refusal of the Arab countries to come to terms with Israel. He said, “It would be quite impossible to exaggerate the importance of Diaspora Jewry’s assistance in the development and growth of Israel,” The peaceful atmosphere in Jerusalem, he said, may have surprised some of the visitors from abroad but it is the same atmosphere that prevails throughout the country. Mr. Allon said this condition was not meant to deny the existence of flare-ups and fighting along the cease-fire lines, but, he added, the Arab terrorists have failed in all of their objectives except one, propaganda. Their aim, Mr. Allon said, was to frighten off immigrants and investors. He called on world Jewry to mount their own “reprisals” against the terrorists by declaring, “we shall come in large numbers and we will invest,” Rabbi Friedman told the delegates that Israel has begun new immigrant absorption projects with Western settlers in mind and is now “on the right track.” He said the new policies should lead to an increase of immigration from Western countries.